Published by Random House
Book Review Rating ♥♥♥
The plot is set during five days in November 1920, from 7th to the 11th, Armistice day. One storyline is the circumstances that led to the creation and interment of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey. The account is fictional but is based on actual events. The second strand to the novel is the story of three women, Ada Hart, Evelyn Montfort and Hettie Burns. All three women have been affected by the Great War either having lost someone or had a loved one return home but are mentally or physically ‘broken’.
‘Wake’ is a very competent, well written book that lovingly portrays five days in the lives of the three women and the family and friends around them. The main protagonists are well developed fully rounded characters and one gets a sense that the author has lived and breathed their lives for some time. The dialogue is character driven, each word and sentence is crafted in such a way as help one understand who the character is beyond their actions.
However, one cannot say the same for many of the secondary characters; Ada’s husband, Hettie’s friend Di and Rowan Hind. (Rowan Hind relates a harrowing tale of his time in the trenches in the fields of France and the author creates the scene so well that one can almost feel the mud underfoot. But, his character is underwritten and under utilised).
These and some other characters are one dimensional and one gets the impression that the author had spent so much time developing the main protagonists that she didn’t give enough time to flesh out the minor characters.
The main problem with the book is that it falls to often into a well of clichés and stereotypes and as such that it comes across like so many Romance novels. You have Evelyn who lost her first love and has withdrawn from life and love. You have Hettie the not so attractive best friend to a beautiful girl who has found a rich man. Then you have Ada who has lost her son and has also withdrawn from life. The denouement to Ada’s story is ridiculously saccharine and contrived. The words of advice she is given that change her life reads like the clichéd homilies vomited by those loathsome American life coaches one sees on TV.
One gets the impression the author wrote this only for the female reading population. Why would she have all the main characters female? There are no memorable male characters and each of these is damaged mentally or physically. What would have raised it above the norm would have been having one of three main characters male, a father who had lost his son. I am sure there must have been widowed fathers who had sons fighting in the war.
The author’s telling of the events that led to the creation of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier is sublime and there were times where I was distracted by my desire for the story to return to this strand of the novel to the detriment of the rest of the storyline.
One has to remember this is Anna Hope’s first novel and can certainly be described as a valiant attempt. But much of it is written monochromatically it lacks any subtle nuances or depth or underlying themes and because of this it is doubtful one would return to the book to re-read it.
First Line - Three soldiers emerge from their barracks in Arras, northern France.
Memorable Line - They are very small bundles. these cannot be bodies. Theses are just scraps of things, they look like little more than rags.
No' of Pages - 336
Profanity - None
Sex Scenes - Yes but not graphic
This is an advanced copy obtained through Netgalley.