London, 1920. The city prepares to observe the two-year anniversary of Armistice Day with the burial of the unknown soldier. Many are still haunted by the war: Hettie, a dance instructress, lives at home with her mother and her brother, who is mute after his return from combat. One night Hettie meets a wealthy, educated man and finds herself smitten with him. But there is something distracted about him, something she cannot reach. . . . Evelyn works at the Pensions Exchange, through which thousands of men have claimed benefits from wounds or debilitating distress. Embittered by her own loss, 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 Helpless, her loving husband has withdrawn from her. Then one day a young man appears at her door, seemingly with notions to peddle, like hundreds of out-of-work veterans. But when he utters the name of her son, Ada is jolted to the core.
Hope paints a multi-faceted view of the UK after World War I and it is fairly bleak and heavy. This is a book full of loss, grief, and escapism. The atmosphere is both engrossing and oppression in 1920s London and all the characters are continually dwelling upon their loss. (Even more tragic is that you know there was little respite between wars.) The characters span the spectrum-a mother who lost her son, woman who lost her betrothed, a woman who lost noone but cannot reach those who remain. The present tense voice wove their current daily lives with the loss they constantly confront with well researched settings. When the plot left the women, it suffered a bit-failed to evoke whatever it was meant to-so the novel definitely shone when it was about the women (not the men). The plot was occasionally a bit lagging sometimes-a bit slow-but written so well it evoked the atmosphere of sadness in my own living room.