GOODREADS SUMMARY | Random House Canada | January 1st, 2014 | Hardback, 304 pages | Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
The most effective way to learn History is to experience it through works of fiction. While that statement may be a paradox, it is the most accurate way to describe how I feel about learning History. Sometimes, cold hard facts do not inspire ravenous curiosity. Reading historical accounts through someone’s personal perspective changes the experience quite drastically.
Anna Hope’s Wake is a good example of that. I’ve learned a thing or two about the war. But the one thing that stood in my mind was the Coalition Forces’ ability to kill their own soldiers should they be found guilty of desertion.
The journey of the unknown soldier.
Set five days before the arrival of the unknown soldier, Wake tells the story of three women with their own struggles during the aftermath of World War I. The stories of their lives are knotted in the same thread. And as the soldier nears his final resting place, it becomes clear how closely their lives were twined together.
Ada’s marriage died along with their son who didn’t come back from the war. Haunted by his memories, she goes through life seeing his apparitions. She can’t shake off the feeling that her son never really died. Because without a body to speak of, her hopes are still alive.
Hettie’s life hasn’t been the same since the war. She lost her father to Spanish flu, and her brother came back from the war catatonic from severe shell shock. A dancer by profession, she makes sacrifices to help her mother run their household. One night, she meets an enigmatic rich man who was haunted by his own demons from the war.
Evelyn is a rich heiress who never had to work her entire life. Aggrieved by the untimely death of her lover, she spends her life working at a veterans’ pensions office as an act of self-flagellation. There, she hears every single stories of trauma and injuries suffered by the soldiers who served the country.
One person too many.
As is the prevalent problem with stories told from different points of views, I had a difficulty focusing on the focal point of the story. I found myself unable to keep a consistent interest with all four, the fourth one being a collective group of people who were somehow connected to the unknown soldier. More often, I found myself getting the characters mixed up – which ultimately led to some re-reading sessions that bogged me down whilst in the throes of this novel.
That’s not to say their stories aren’t all that interesting. They are, in their own merits, captivating regardless of how muddled they may be at times. The novel suffered from too many sub stories that I had a tough time staying focused.
Anna Hope’s Wake is a fascinating take on the stories of people coping after the war. In their own way, the burial of the unknown soldier was their way of letting go and accepting inner peace. Most stories, though unresolved, at least offered underlying hope that each characters’ ghosts were laid to rest along with the soldier.