Anna Hope’s tale of loss and redemption skilfully weaves the journey of the unknown soldier from the battle fields of Europe to his final resting place in Westminster, with the lives of her three main characters Hettie, Evelyn and Ada. Though unknown to each other, they are connected by events that took place during the war, by a destructive secret, which holds them and their families hostage to its devastating consequences.
It’s a beautifully told tale of a nation that was on the cusp of change, its collective grief over the deaths of so many men turning towards a future filled with hope and faith. What the country needed and the three women of the tale need, is a catalyst to engineer this wholesale and individual healing process. But can the three women except it’s time to move forward?
Anna Hope clearly shows that the only winner in war is war itself and illustrates this by exploring the crippling grief suffered especially by Evelyn and Ada. Neither woman at the opening of the tale has come to terms with the loss of their lover in the case of Evelyn and Ada’s young son. Hettie has not suffered physical loss, her brother survived the war, but won’t speak, traumatized by the horrors he witnessed. For her, it’s the frustration of not being able to live her life, because she’s tied by obligation to her family.
I enjoyed this beautifully told tale, it spoke to me of pain and loss, but also of hope and regeneration, faith and love. The author captures the post war period with an intrinsic understanding of a nation left devastated by the brutal loss of a whole generation of men. Remarkably it’s not a tale that leaves the reader emotionally crippled by the focus on such utter devastation. For the three main characters and the larger supporting cast, there is hope for a life worth living, if they can only reach out and embrace it.
If you love fictional tales set around the time of the First World War, I would certainly recommend Wake by Anna Hope. It shares it emphasis on the quiet suffering of those who survived the war, with the superb and haunting -The Lie by Helen Dunmore.