Wake: A Novel
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Anna Hope’s brilliant debut unfolds over the course of five days, as three women must deal with the aftershocks of World War I and its impact on the men in their lives.
Wake: 1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep. 2) Ritual for the dead. 3) Consequence or aftermath.
London, 1920. The city prepares to observe the two-year anniversary of Armistice Day with the burial of the unknown soldier. Many are still haunted by the war: Hettie, a dance instructress, lives at home with her mother and her brother, who is mute after his return from combat. One night Hettie meets a wealthy, educated man and finds herself smitten with him. But there is something distracted about him, something she cannot reach. . . . Evelyn works at the Pensions Exchange, through which thousands of men have claimed benefits from wounds or debilitating distress. Embittered by her own loss, she looks for solace in her adored brother, who has not been the same since he returned from the front. . . . Ada is beset by visions of her son on every street, convinced he is still alive. Helpless, her loving husband has withdrawn from her. Then one day a young man appears at her door, seemingly with notions to peddle, like hundreds of out-of-work veterans. But when he utters the name of her son, Ada is jolted to the core.
The lives of these three women are braided together, their stories gathering tremendous power as the ties that bind them become clear, and the body of the unknown soldier moves closer and closer to its final resting place.
Advance praise for Wake
“Hope’s unblinking prose is reminiscent of Vera Brittain’s classic memoir Testament of Youth in its depiction of the social and emotional fallout, particularly on women, of the Great War. . . . Hope reaches beyond the higher echelons of society to women of different social classes, all linked by their reluctance to bid goodbye to the world the conflict has shattered.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Wake is a tender and timely novel, full of compassion and quiet insight. The author gives us a moving and original glimpse into the haunted peace after the Great War, her characters drawn by the gravity of the unmarked, the unknown, and perhaps, finally, the unhoped for.”—Chris Cleave, author of Little Bee
“Wake is a compelling and emotionally charged debut about the painful aftermath of war and the ways—small, brave, or commonplace—in which we keep ourselves going. It touches feelings we know, and settings—dance halls, war fronts, queues outside the grocer’s—that we don’t. I loved it.”—Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
“Wake is powerful and humane, a novel that charms and beguiles. Anna Hope’s characters are so real, flawed, and searching, and her prose so natural, one almost forgets how very great a story she is telling.”—Sadie Jones, author of The Uninvited Guests
“Using telling detail, Hope creates a vibrant physical and emotional landscape in which her leading characters, and a sea of others, move irresistibly into the future, some having found resolution, others still in search. Fresh, confident, yet understated, Hope’s first work movingly revisits immense tragedy while also confirming her own highly promising ability.”—Kirkus Reviews
“I don’t know. He was—just one of those boys, selling things. Rubbish, most of it. But I—let him in.” “You let him in?” “He was wounded,” she says. He nods, accepting this. “What was it? Did he do something to you?” “No, nothing like that. No.” “Well, what then?” She breathes in the scent of the leaves held in piles around them, the sweet beginnings of their decay. “There was something about him,” she says. “Something not right. I said I’d buy some dishcloths, just to make him go. But when
the moment?” “I’m working.” He lifts his eyes. “Salesman. Yes.” “And how is that?” He raises his thumb to his mouth, chewing a bit of skin at the side of his nail. “It’s terrible,” he says. Of course it is. Do people like him, then, when he knocks at their doors? Traveling salesman? Little Mr. Hind? “It’s not that, though,” he says. “It’s something else.” “Yes?” “I want to find my regiment. I want to find my captain. I didn’t know where to look.… And then I was passing, and I saw the sign.
“Nineteen?” She turns to his gaze, which is steadier all of a sudden, tender, and she is caught in it. It is as though some of his drunkenness has left him in his fall. And her stomach plunges, because he is still here, this man she met at Dalton’s, this man who is unlike anyone she has ever known. “Why?” she says. “How old are you?” “Twenty-seven.” He shakes his head. “Twenty-eight soon. Ancient history.” He fishes a cigarette case out of his pocket, taps one out, and puts it in his mouth.
All of the men, waiting their turn. For those young girls. And those women. On their last legs. What happened to them, after that? Where did they end up? “Why does it matter?” she says. “Why does it matter if I cut my hair?” “Because you can never go back,” he says. “Hair grows.” “I know it does,” he says sadly. “But you can never go back.” And he bends forward, putting his head in his hands. She can hear him, breathing hard. She should touch him, she thinks. This is her job here. She
When they finally see me I tell them about the shell and ask if they’ve had anyone in. They ask me which company I’m from and when I tell them they say they had another of ours down there earlier, spouting nonsense and shaking. They’d put him on a stretcher but he’d disappeared. Had he reported back? they said. I said I didn’t know. That’s when I started to feel something really bad. “When I get back up there to the line, I still can’t see him. “Night comes and he’s still not back. “When