Wake

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Overview

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 ...

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Wake

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Overview

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 Helpless, her loving husband has withdrawn from her.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
 
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

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Abigail Meisel
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. Unlike Brittain, 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.
Publishers Weekly
11/04/2013
Hope’s confident, well-crafted debut follows a trio of English women during the grim years after WWI, when no British family was left unscathed. Consequently, the novel is pervaded by a sense of absence and constant aching that underlies the women’s need to carry on. Ada, a grieving mother, is consumed by her son’s death; Hettie, a dance hall girl, waits resentfully for her shell-shocked brother to find a job; and Evelyn, a worker in a veterans’ relief office, takes pride in her ability to bury her emotional self, a quality which keeps her at her desk years after coworkers have quit. Each of the women’s lives is defined by loss, and as the book progresses, the stories of their dead and broken men begin to mesh. The overwhelming devastation of the war would be enough to justify the depressive grayness of the book, but Hope darkens the mood further by presenting a single tragedy from several perspectives. Though these characters may not be granted closure, they do get a chance at freedom. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
Advance praise for Wake
 
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
Kirkus Reviews
2013-11-17
The echoes of warfare reverberate through an evocative debut which considers the lasting impact of military carnage on those left to carry on. Grief and anger, shame, silence and the inextinguishable life force are some of the elements captured in Hope's delicate portrait of three women's lives in London in 1920, as the shock waves of World War I subside. While the French countryside starts to reclaim the battlefields, so the wives and mothers, sisters and daughters of the maimed and fallen must continue with their lives. One young woman, Hettie Burns, makes a living as a dance instructor, earning enough to support her unhappy mother and shellshocked brother. Ada Hart is still haunted by the death of her son, Michael, in 1917, whom she glimpses everywhere. And upper-class Evelyn Montfort, bitter after the death of her fiance, tries to find purpose in the drudgery of work. The book's time frame is the five-day period spanning the disinterment, the journey back to England and ceremonial procession to the Westminster Cathedral grave of the Unknown Warrior, during which period the women's lives begin to shift. 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.
From the Publisher
“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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812995138
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/11/2014
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 133,940
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Anna Hope studied English at Oxford, attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, and then received an M.A. in creative writing at Birkbeck. She lives in London.

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Interviews & Essays

Questions for Barnes and Noble Discover.

A Conversation with Anna Hope, Author of Wake: A Novel

1. Wake takes place in London at the close of World War I. What drew you to that that time period?

It's funny, I came at WW1 sideways — I was reading a lot of women's social history from the turn of the 20th century, and was fascinated by women's fight for the vote and the early suffrage campaigns. I knew that the vote had been granted for most women in Britain in 1918, but I wanted to know why, what had changed for women during this period? Then, the more I started to research the period of the end of the war, the more I became compelled by what I learned of British society of the time. The Empire, which before the war had been so sure of its status in the word, was brought low and crippled with grief. Servicemen were homeless and begging on the streets. Hardly any family was untouched by death. There was great social unrest. The cracks were beginning to appear in all of those patriarchal certainties women voting, gaining new independences, bobbing their hair and binding their breasts.
To add to this was the fact that the government had taken the unilateral decision not to bring any of the bodies home from the Western Front. So all of those dead young men were buried in graveyards close to where they had died in Belgium and Northern France and beyond. I was fascinated by the extraordinary sense of absence and lack of closure this must have created for the families who had lost a loved one.

2. You tell the story through the lives of three women whose stories are braided together. What led you to take this approach?

I knew from very early on that I wanted to see these events through the eyes of women. I was really aware that most of the known tropes of the war: the barbed wire, the mud, the botched battles, were all from the male experience, and that there was another side to those four years, that of the women who lived through them. Through books like Vera Brittain's memoir 'Testament of Youth' I felt I learned a little about the work of the women who went over to France as nurses, but I wanted to write about those that didn't go out to France and have those life changing adventures. Three women, who on the surface appear unremarkable, but all of whom are profoundly changed by the experience of war.

3. How much did the burial of the Unknown Warrior influence your story? Was this a nonfiction element you knew you had to include to shape the novel?

Yes, it was. Just technically I knew I wanted to have that opportunity to be present in the consciousness of more than just my women characters. The body of the Unknown Warrior gave me that freedom. We catch glimpses into the consciousness of those who accompany the body on its journey: a nurse, a farmer in Northern France, the British Undertakers who lay out the body, an Irish soldier in the crowd at the Cenotaph. Perhaps a little bizarrely, while I was writing, I kept thinking of that fabulous Mexican road trip movie 'Y Tu Mama Tambien.' I loved the way that the camera would pan away from the main action and you'd hear a little bit about a character the car was passing; a worker from Michoacan who had died crossing the road; you'd get these glimpses into a wider society that was carrying on outside the bounds of the main plot. I loved that, and sought to create something of that in 'Wake.'
I also returned often to Colum McCann's 'Let the Great World Spin.' What he does so cleverly in that book is show how you can tell the story of a city, a society, a turning point in history, through one symbolic event.
It was great to work within the limits of those five days too, and to challenge myself with how I could tell the story within that frame.
And then of course, thematically, it was hugely important; the more I read about this event the more compelled I became: for so many hundreds of thousands of people this was the cathartic ritual they had been yearning for.

4. Did you find any part of the novel or character particularly hard to write?
Oh blimey yes! I wrote the first draft fairly quickly, but then redrafted again and again. One of the hardest things was trying to make enough happen in those five days to fill the novel, without the events seeming gratuitous or contrived. Balancing the main story and the backstory for each character was also a challenge. And then character-wise, both Ada and Hettie posed problems for me; Ada because she is so locked in her past and her grief, she was hard to energize (Evelyn has her spikiness, which though it doesn't endear her to those around her, was perversely quite good fun to write.) Hettie was the hardest, perhaps because she has lost the least. I wanted her to represent a new, thrusting energy, but that was tricky to achieve without her seeming callous.

5. What authors have you discovered lately?
In the course of my reading for 'Wake' I came across a book called 'The Forbidden Zone' by Mary Borden. She was an American nurse in WW1 and wrote these extraordinary prose sketches of her time in France. They out Hemingwayin their sparseness, honesty and beauty. I think she is a great writer, and deserves to be much wider known. I'm hoping that the centenary will bring her to a wider reading public. I've been re-discovering Rebecca Solnit recently too — her latest book 'The Faraway Nearby is as close to a masterpiece as I've ever read.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 7, 2014

    worth the read

    The human toll that war brings is the central theme of WAKE. It's not just those who are fighting valiantly in the trenches but also those at home who suffer. The differing ways this suffering is dealt with realistically depicted and how a country comes together to honor its war dead is emotionally felt.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted April 5, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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