I’m very nostalgic.
Even at 23 years old, I look back at my life quite often and see how different I’ve grown, how far I’ve come (or how far I’ve fallen, in some ways). It’s a bit dramatic, given that I’ve only just started my twenties and have so much ahead of me.
But I feel like everyone goes through this at each stage. Expecting so much from the future and getting to it, only to miss the past. Or at least that’s how I know a lot of people are.
That’s exactly what you get from Anna Hope’s Expectation.
If it’s not obvious in the title, this novel is all about expectations. Expectations of ourselves, of our friends, of our futures.
Expectation is a story that revolves around three friends who were once inseparable but, ten years on, lead almost completely separate lives. Each have their own problems, their own stories, but Hope writes the novel in such a way that keeps it all connected. The novel is split into sections using one title and then with each character, allowing us to join the different characters in their own stories (although it was all third-person).
You can read the official synopsis below:
“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?” – Amazon.co.uk
If there’s one thing I can say about this novel, it’s that it is beautifully, extraordinarily normal. A novel that takes the most ordinary circumstances in life – university life, failed romances, infertility – and creates a story that’s heartfelt and captivating. A novel this ordinary doesn’t normally interest me. I like the fantastical and magical. But, despite having not been through much of these issues, I couldn’t help but feel for these characters. To understand them and connect with them throughout. It was this connection with the characters that kept me reading.
Hope’s descriptions definitely play a part in the beauty of this novel. Elegant descriptions that capture the imagination and draw you into the story. Adding emotion and atmosphere, pages go by without any dialogue (in fact, there really isn’t much dialogue in this novel). Whilst this can be tiring at times, for the most part, it feels natural.
It’s far from just the descriptions of the places that caught my attention. The characterisation in this novel was expertly done, not only with the women at their present, but there is such a big difference between them and their younger counterparts. We all know how we age and change over the years, how what we hoped for doesn’t always work out (it often doesn’t) and that’s shown in this novel. We can still recognise the characters for who they are, still see parts of the young versions in the older, but it’s smudged, changed, uncanny. A familiarity that’s not quite right.
What I loved most about this novel was the honesty. Cate is an overwhelmed mother, her story is full of the dark side of motherhood we aren’t supposed to talk about. Hannah is struggling to get pregnant and the rawness of her emotion is clearly displayed. Lissa is a struggling actress, her life nothing like she had expected. In fact, none of their lives are as expected and Hope perfectly demonstrates the array of emotions that come with the realisation that you aren’t where you wanted to be.
On a technical note, as mentioned earlier, the novel is split into sections using one title and then with each character. This worked incredibly well for the novel as it brought all three stories together nicely, keeping them interconnected but making the point that they are still separate and individual. A style that mimics the nature of any friendship group.
As with all my reviews, there were a few things I think could have been improved:
As mentioned earlier, sometimes the long descriptions were tiring to read. There were moments where it was overwhelming taking it all in. With these long descriptions, speech would often be mixed in. At times, it was part of the narrative. Other times, speech tags would be missing. Occasionally, this style made it hard to see who was speaking and what was actually speech as opposed to narrative or thought. I did have to guess a few times, or re-read the paragraph to understand. As a result, I sometimes felt like the story was dragging, something that could have been resolved with a little less description and more action.
As my university lecturer would say, “don’t use fifty words to say something you could say in five.”
I also found a few grammatical errors that stood out when reading (although I got this book from NetGalley and will assume they were fixed for the final print).
If you can’t tell, I did find it hard to criticise this novel (constructively). It is written well and thoughtfully, making it hard to really pick on things I disliked. I did take longer reading it than I thought I would, but it would be unfair to judge based on that because, although the description was at times too much, it’s more likely down to the fact it’s not my normal genre.
All-in-all, this was a great novel. It encapsulated the familiar whilst keeping the reader interested and engaged. It also included a happy ending, something to show that, despite our younger expectations of life, we can still be happy with a life unexpected.
Would I recommend this novel?
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