Anna Hope

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Anna Hope

A fierce emotional contemporary novel about what it takes to lead a meaningful life.

Cate, Hannah 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, desire 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?

This is a story of the highs and lows of friendship - how it can dip, dive and rise again. It is also about muddling through: 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 terrible pain and wondrous joy - in which we all live our lives.


Now in their mid-thirties, Cate and Hannah, friends since high school, are drifting apart. Oxford-educated Cate is a new mum who has relocated to Canterbury in a house purchased by her in-laws. She’s worried that the life she’s living is no longer her own. Beautiful Hannah seems to have it all – a cool London apartment, a meaningful career, an adoring husband. But she’s desperate for a baby and embarks on another punishing round of IVF. Meanwhile, their friend Lissa barely makes ends meet as a frequently out-of-work actor, longs for a man she can’t have, and thinks she’s a failure. Each woman wants a bit of what the other has got.

With this incisive and brutally honest novel, Anna Hope asks what it feels like when the expectations you had for your life as a younger person don’t materialise? She answers that question by shifting deftly between Cate, Hannah, and Lissa’s perspectives, and back and forth between the constraints of the present day (the novel is set mostly around 2010) and a more fearless, less compromised past. A repeated idyllic flashback to when the women shared a house on the edge of London Fields has the faded beauty of a Polaroid, imagined as a time when the world and its possibilities spreads out long and wide like an endless summer afternoon.

Expectation’s evocation of place, time, and the different stages of women’s lives, is vivid and true. I loved how weirdly similarthe women’s conversations at university in 1995 – about books, films, music, sex, and politics – are to those I was having then; how their uncertainties and desires are similar to those of many women I know now. We live in a complicated era that frequently asks us to conceal our confusion, disappointment, and pain behind a glossy mask of composure and success. With Expectation, Hope removes the mask. She finds beauty in the chaos too, in this elegant, empathetic novel about messy, ordinary, brave women who aren’t trying to change the world, but just do their best to live happily in it.

Joanna Di Mattia works as a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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