Audiobook Review: Wake

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Audiobook Review: WakeWake by Anna Hope
Narrator: Anna Hope
Length: 10 hrs 33 min
Published by Random House Audio on February 11, 2014
Genres: Historical
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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three-stars

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 Helpless, her loving husband has withdrawn from her.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.

Can we talk about misleading covers for a moment? Because, while I liked Wake, it wasn’t really what I was anticipating. The cover has a couple hugging after the men come back from war. I was expecting romance, but there’s really not much of it in the book. Instead, Wake is much darker. It’s less a plot and more a capturing of the post-war mood. It’s beautiful, but it’s not two people hugging.

The book’s blurb includes three definitions for the word “wake,” all of which are apt in the context of the book. Most literally, the plot of the book revolves in some measure around a big funeral procession in London, in honor of the fallen soldiers. Of course, it also deals with the aftermath of the war; it’s been two years since the war ended, but lives are still greatly affected by it. Finally, the three heroines have been in some measure asleep, not literally but figuratively, and events rouse them.

The beginning of Wake was a bit hard to follow, at least on audio. There are three heroines, and the story swaps between them pretty often. It took me a while to really distinguish between the women and remember which was doing what. They’re all quite different, but, without having had any idea what the book would be about, I was thrown for a bit of a loop.

First, there’s young Hettie. She works in a dance hall with her friend, an instructor. Men can buy a dance with her for six pence, and when I say dance I mean an actual dance like a waltz or a foxtrot. She lives with her family, but spends a lot of time with her friend from the dance hall. One night, her friend takes her out and she meets a young man, returned from the war. They have an odd flirtation and she wants to know him more. This story line is a bit different from the other two, but highlights, both through Hettie’s brother and the man she meets, the way the war affected some of the soldiers who returned.

Evelyn’s a bit older, and a real spitfire. She hasn’t cared about her life since the man she loved died in the war. She’s in a constant battle with her family because she wants to keep working rather than get married and start a family. Her brother returned from the war different, but she’s too apathetic about life to care. Evelyn lives her life in a desperate bid to not feel or at least not feel happy, too focused on the loss of that man. Her story line was my favorite, both because of who she is and because of the progress she makes.

Finally, there’s Ada, a wife and mother. Her son died, supposedly, in the war, but she never got official notification of where or how, so she’s convinced he’s still alive somewhere. She keeps thinking she’s seen him in the street. As a result of her unwillingness to accept his death, she’s living in the past and can’t see her marriage crumbling around her. Her story is one of how much it hurt not to know. Better to have a dead son almost than to be uncertain, because as long as he might be alive she can’t think of anything else.

Each of their plot lines was beautiful and sad, and I loved the way they weaved just the slightest bit together. However, I’m a bit at a loss with the ending. The book just kind of trails off in the midst of a scene. Ada and Evelyn come through a bit changed, but Hettie doesn’t seem all that different. The book is lovely and atmospheric, but, if there’s a larger point, I’m perhaps missing it.

Anna Hope narrates her own book beautifully. She does a delightful range of British accents for the particular characters. Wake is an excellent choice for readers who enjoy historical novels soaked in the atmosphere and mood of the time.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

That's right, Maggie Smith. It IS peace time, but that doesn't make everything simple.

That’s right, Maggie Smith. It IS peace time, but that doesn’t make everything simple.

5 responses to “Audiobook Review: Wake”

  1. Sarah says:

    I was on the lookout for some more WWI related fiction to read this year, it being the 1ooth anniversary and all. Might have to add this to my to-read list. Thanks for the review!
    Sarah recently posted…Classics Club Spin: The Blind Assassin (Adult Fiction Review)My Profile

  2. Bonnie says:

    I’d been eyeing this one for a while but wasn’t convinced it’d be a ‘me’ book. I’m kind of intrigued now though and even moreso knowing that the author narrated it. Authors narrating their own books usually work out so well for me.

  3. If I read this one, I’ll definitely try to read it as a book because I hate being confused and the switching POVs definitely sounds hard to follow if you’re listening to it. But I love how heartbreaking and different each story is, especially with Ada’s grieving cycle and Evelyn’s character development. Fantastic review, Christina! <33
    Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain recently posted…February RecapMy Profile

  4. Oh, this definitely sounds like something I would enjoy. Or maybe that Tatum would, since she’s more into darker reads than I am. But I like a good cry, and stories about women, so YAY. I’m glad you liked this one! Even if the ending is a little weird.

  5. I’m glad to hear this one is less romance-y than the cover would suggest. Not sure I’ll be in the mood for sad too terribly soon but this one is in my TBR and I’m looking forward to it.

    I think it’s fabulous that the author did her own audio. I recently learned that she’s an actress (I’m a huge Doctor Who geek and she had a small role on an episode) so it does make sense. Authors so rarely do their own audios (understandably) but I think it adds an extra depth that’s usually missing in audio books.
    Becky LeJeune recently posted…The Deepest Secret by Carla BuckleyMy Profile

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