The echoes of warfare reverberate through an evocative debut which considers the lasting impact of military carnage on those left to carry on.
Grief and anger, shame, silence and the inextinguishable life force are some of the elements captured in Hope’s delicate portrait of three women’s lives in London in 1920, as the shock waves of World War I subside. While the French countryside starts to reclaim the battlefields, so the wives and mothers, sisters and daughters of the maimed and fallen must continue with their lives. One young woman, Hettie Burns, makes a living as a dance instructor, earning enough to support her unhappy mother and shellshocked brother. Ada Hart is still haunted by the death of her son, Michael, in 1917, whom she glimpses everywhere. And upper-class Evelyn Montfort, bitter after the death of her fiance, tries to find purpose in the drudgery of work. The book’s time frame is the five-day period spanning the disinterment, the journey back to England and ceremonial procession to the Westminster Cathedral grave of the Unknown Warrior, during which period the women’s lives begin to shift. Using telling detail, Hope creates a vibrant physical and emotional landscape in which her leading characters, and a sea of others, move irresistibly into the future, some having found resolution, others still in search.
Fresh, confident, yet understated, Hope’s first work movingly revisits immense tragedy while also confirming her own highly promising ability.