In 1920 Europe was still recovering from the horrors of WWI. The countries that had fought in that war had to do something with the effects.
There were so many men who came back wounded and who needed help, and there were so many families who mourned their lost loved ones, the ones who died in the mud of the trenches.
Something had to be done to canalize this nationwide-mourning. From the battlefields of France four corpses of British soldiers were dug up, soldiers whose name, rank and regiment could not be determined.
One of those four was chosen and he became the Unknown Soldier. He was brought back to England with full military honours, to be officially buried on Armistice day, November 20th.
One Unknown Soldier as a symbol for all the missing fathers, the dead sons and the husbands who never made it back home. In this way everybody could feel their loved one had come home and hopefully recover a little.
This is the background story of Wake, a novel that is set in the couple of days just before the official burial of the Unknown Soldier. We meet three women and see how the war effected them.
Ada lost her son and she never knew the circumstances. This is eating her up and she cannot let it rest. She sees her dead son everywhere, but in the meanwhile she does not see her husband anymore.
Hettie is a dancer in London and she is fed up with the war. She wants to live, to dance and cut of her hair, just like her friend Diana did.
In a nightclub she meets Ed, and interesting man who has far more problems Hettie could ever imagine. But this does give her more understanding for her brother who is at home suffering from Shellshock.
Finally, we meet Eleanor, who bitterly holds on to the loss of her loved one and refuses to see that perhaps there is another future for her. When she meets a wounded soldier at work, who is looking for her brother, she hears his story and then even Eleanor has to wake up.
Anna Hope wrote a beautiful novel that shows how the war effected all these people, the ones who lost loved ones and the ones who came back, wounded and traumatized. The story is very well written and slowly things become clear.
I love here that not everything that becomes apparent to us, the reader, also becomes apparent to the characters in the book. This is much more believable than when everything comes together for everyone. I also like how still all of the characters, Ada, Eleanor and Hettie will have a chance of moving on.
I also very much liked the anonymous parts of people who witnessed the burial of the Unknown Soldier and what is meant for them, this gives the story more layers.
Wake is a beautiful book that does not only shows us three different women and their stories, but also shows how healing certain rituals can be. When something so big has happened, there must be something to help people in their grief and to help them move on.
This book was Anna Hope’s debut, but I do hope there will be a new book by her soon!
Published in 2014