In the days leading up to the 2nd anniversary of Armistice Day in London, three women leading three separate lives go about their days while the horrific memories of the war are still very fresh. Hettie, a young dance instructor at the Palais becomes enamoured with a charming, yet distant, man she meets while out dancing. Evelyn has suffered many forms of loss due to the war and looks to her brother and a stranger she meets at work to try make sense of everything. Ada opens her door to a young soldier-turned-salesman which opens unhealed wounds of her son lost at war. She starts to see her son everywhere and thereby not realizing her husband is retreating further away. As the burial day of the unknown soldier draws nearer the lives of these three women are revealed to be tied together in ways they would never have known.
Wake opens with a 3-part definition of the word: Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep; Ritual for the dead; Consequence or aftermath, which very succinctly sums up the themes of Hope’s debut novel. Told over the span of five days, jumping between the points of view of all three characters, their stories unfold in a steady pace, slowly building to the moment where their worlds intersect. There have been many books written set in the aftermath of war but what Hope has done in this novel is that she has delved into the emotional and mental state of both the returning soldiers and the women who have lost the men in their lives. There are many gripping moments where your heart goes out to these characters and what they have endured, as well as what they are currently enduring. The different stages of grief are evident in every person and how they deal with it is an interesting exploration into character dynamics.
Hope does touch on some of the harsher realities of war, some scenes leaving me horrified, but the book is more of a quiet, sombre tone. Those tough scenes are there for a reason, to illustrate the ugliness of it all, but Wake is about so much more than that. A beautifully woven story told through the eyes of three generations of women. And as if drawing from the author’s surname, amidst the despair and grief that is felt, there is also an underlying feeling of hope that is wanting to burst through if these women will let it.