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Expectation by Anna Hope

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Literary Fiction

By Swirl and Thread

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‘What happened to the women we were supposed to become?’

Expectation by Anna Hope is published with Black Swan (Transworld/Penguin) and is a book that I have had on my radar for quite some time. It is described as ‘razor-sharp and heartbreaking’ with Grazia Magazine stating ‘if you wished Normal People had tackled female friendship, try Expectation’.

Expectation is the story of three friends Hannah, Cate and Lissa. Having met in their younger years, their friendship has been a very central and important part of their lives. From school friends to college students to women in their thirties, they have walked together facing life’s challenges as one. Through these years they all had ambitions, dreams of where they wanted to be, the directions their lives would take.

‘Much of their lives is still before them. They have made mistakes, but they are not fatal. They are no longer young, but they do not feel old. Life is still malleable and full of potential. The openings to the roads not taken have not yet sealed up. They still have time to become who they are going to be’

Hannah has had a successful career and to date has had a happy marriage to Nathan but there is something missing in Hannah’s life. She wants a baby. After numerous failed IVF treatments, the process is taking its toll on her relationship with everyone, but in particular with Nathan.

Cate has recently given birth to Tom. Her marriage to Sam was a whirlwind and Cate is struggling. She met Sam, got pregnant, got married all in very quick succession and now after moving away from London, she is lost. Cate misses the spontaneity of her old life, she misses her protesting days, her travelling and much more.

Lissa always loved to act but is finding it a struggle to make ends meet now as a woman in her thirties. The bohemian lifestyle always suited Lissa. Her mother Sarah, an artist, had given Lissa little of her time growing up, as she was busy campaigning for women’s rights, for justice and for many other causes she felt worth fighting for. Lissa has craved her mother’s affection over the years. The love is clearly there but their relationship is fractured.

Three women, all faced with very different challenges, all finding themselves in places they never expected. Expectation is their story. Anna Hope has written a heart-aching and very poignant story exploring decisions made, journeys taken, lives lived. It is a very tender and captivating read, one that will completely capture the heart of many who read it.

There is no major plot-line in Expectation. It is, quite simply, a story about three women and how they navigate the ebb and flow of life. Female friendship is a very dynamic and emotional relationship. The connections from that first glimpse can last a life-time but it can also lead to much pain and anguish. We value the opinion of our friends, we hurt easily if ignored, we relish the special moments, we feel each others pain. We look to those who went before us, our mothers, aunts, grandmothers, these amazing women who inspired us, who shaped us.

“You’ve had everything. The fruits of our labour. The fruits of our activism. Good God, we got out there and we changed the world for you. For our daughters. And what have you done with it?…We fought for you. We fought for you to be extraordinary. We changed the world for you and what have you done with it?”

Anna Hope tackles many themes in Expectation, that fragile mother-daughter relationship, marriage and infidelity, first love, children, lost loves, female friendship, infertility and much more. It is a very evocative read bringing many emotions to the table. In many ways Expectation was an unusual read for me. It is a book that grew on me as I turned the pages. Initially I didn’t particularly warm to the three characters, finding them quite self-indulgent, and very wrapped up in themselves. I was shouting at them to just cop on, grow up, get on with it. But then, BANG, something hit me and I was totally engrossed and hungry for more. As the chapters unfolded I cried. Certain scenes were really emotional and I just got it, I understood why this book is so special and garnering such incredible reviews since it’s original release in 2019.

Expectation is a very nostalgic and affecting read, a very relatable story, an astute observation of our expectations versus our reality. Are we forever searching, looking back over our earlier years with rose-tinted glasses? Can we be happy by just being? Do we always need more? What is it to be truly fulfilled? All questions we ask ourselves, probably never finding the answers.

Expectation is a perceptive and provocative read, a very contemplative and wistful novel and one that I am delighted to have finally read.

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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