A brilliant debut set just after WWI, as Britain's Unknown Warrior is being brought home from France; three very different women try to find ways to live again after devastating losses -- of a son, a brother, a lover -- and their tragic connection is gradually revealed as the book unfolds. For readers of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong.
Wake: 1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep 2) Ritual for the dead 3) Consequence or aftermath.
Hettie, a dance instructress at the Hammersmith Palais, lives at home with her mother and her brother, withdrawn and lost after his return from the trenches. One night, she meets a wealthy, educated man and has reason to think he is as smitten with her as she is with him. Still, there is something distracted about him, something she cannot reach... Evelyn works at the Pensions Exchange through which thousands of wounded and shellshocked come, seeking their country's support. Embittered by her own loss, more and more estranged from her well-to-do parents, 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 Helpless, her loving husband of 25 years has withdrawn from her. Then one day a young man appears at her door with notions to peddle, like hundreds of out of work veterans. But when he utters the name of her son she 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.