It’s such a pleasure today to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review of Expectation by Anna Hope, due to be published by Doubleday on 11th July for kindle, in hardback and as an audiobook: the paperback will follow in January 2020. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my invitation to join, and to the publishers for my advance reading ecopy, provided via netgalley.
I’m an immense fan of Anna Hope’s writing. When I discovered her first book, Wake, back in 2013 I was so desperately excited by it that I wrote about it way ahead of publication – you’ll find my “one to look forward to” feature here. I’ve read it again more recently with my real-life book group: we always rate and rank the books we read, and this book is our number one. And then came The Ballroom – powerful, beautifully written, meticulously researched, with an immense emotional impact – and you’ll find my review here. I was delighted to meet the author and hear her speak at the Ilkley Literature Festival back in 2016 – you’ll find my report of that event here. And now we have Expectation – a work of contemporary fiction this time, and perhaps one that’ll take some people by surprise…
Hannah, Cate and Lissa are young, vibrant and inseparable. Living on the edge of a common in East London, their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry – and the promise of everything to come. They are electric. They are the best of friends.
Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be.
Amidst flailing careers and faltering marriages, each hungers for what the others have. And each wrestles with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life?
Expectation is a novel of the highs and lows of friendship – how it can dip, dive and rise again. It is also about finding your way: as a mother, a daughter, a wife, a rebel. Most of all, it explores that liminal space between expectation and reality, the place – full of dreams, desires and pain – in which we all live our lives.
‘Unfolds with real pace, but with such beautifully observed and gripping writing. Luminous, electric, funny, devastatingly truthful.’ – Rachel Joyce
I devoured this book in one glorious all-consuming sitting – and when it finished, I allowed myself to cry. The emotional impact of this book is immense, the way you become enmeshed and immersed in the story unusual in its intensity – and the writing is absolutely exquisite. It looks at friendship, at life’s twists and turns and the way they often disappoint and fail to live up to their promise, at betrayal and its impacts – and explores the emotional responses of its characters with a depth and absolute truth that’s enthralling to experience.
The book’s construction is unusual. I was on the verge of saying “challenging”, but it really isn’t – despite the fact that the story is told from the perspectives of its three main characters and dips, in a way that seems almost random, into other events in earlier timeframes that shaped them and provide insight into their relationships with each other. And it’s wrong of me to call the three women at the heart of this story “characters”, because they’re so much more than that – these are women you know, presenting you with truths that are familiar, evoking feelings and memories half forgotten and too often ignored. I’ve always wondered about “luminous prose”, not sure of its meaning – but for this book, I can’t think of a better description.
But no book can be a success on feelings alone – there’s a compelling narrative too. On the surface, it’s the story of three women – Hannah, Cate and Lisa – their friendship, their hopes and expectations, their relationships, the obstacles life throws (sometimes of their own making), their choices right and wrong, the futures they imagine and the realities they encounter. Beneath the surface, there’s so much more – the feminist themes, the desire for and reality of motherhood, the passion and the disappointment, the complexity of their feelings towards each other, the elusiveness of their dreams.
There are times when I doubt my ability to write a review that captures my feelings when I encounter a book this wonderful – I’ve done my best, but above all I’d urge everyone to read it. Totally unforgettable, absolutely stunning – and, without question, one of my books of the year.
About the author
Anna Hope studied at Oxford University and RADA. Her contemporary fiction debut, Expectation, explores themes of love, lust, motherhood, and feminism, while asking the greater question of what defines a generation. She lives in Sussex with her husband and young daughter. Follow her on Twitter.