Author: Anna Hope
Genre: Literary Fiction
Expectation is a beautifully crafted and intricate character-driven novel following three women across multiple timelines. It is a story of female friendship, life, loss, and love, written in stunning prose.
SPOILER LEVEL: LOW | This review contains minor details about the characters and plot of this novel that can be found in the blurb.
I reached page 5 of Expectation and already knew I was going to love it. The writing style–descriptive, beautiful prose–is my favourite type of writing, particularly for character-driven novels and it did not disappoint. Unsurprisingly, this book looks at expectations: of motherhood, of a successful career, of marriage, of friendship, of love and examines them through the lens of a friendship between three women. It was an incredible read, heartbreaking at times and hopeful at others, and I really loved it.
The majority of this book is set in the main timeline, a time in which the three women are in their mid-thirties, but other chapters are set at various points across the women’s adolescence and adulthood, with each chapter offering a glimpse into the past. It is through these chapters that you really get to see their friendships develop, only in reverse. Anna Hope effortlessly wove the present with the past to highlight different periods of the women’s friendship at points that corresponded to the events happening in the current timeline. It was also fascinating to see what lives each character had envisaged for themselves at different stages in their life and the similarity and contrasts to the reality they were currently living.
It is very much a character-driven novel, so if you’re looking for action, this might not be for you. There are moments of intrigue and tension, but it is mostly a novel that focuses on character introspection and the friendship between the three main characters. I know that this has been compared to ‘Normal People if it had focused on female friendship’ and it was the character introspection that mostly reminded me of Sally Rooney’s work. However, I wouldn’t necessarily compare the two in other aspects. Normal People is very much a coming-of-age story, following the characters as they grow and travel through school and university; in Expectation, you are already at the ‘result’ of the three characters lives and seeing how that contrasts to how they hoped their lives would go. But, in terms of writing style, I can see the similarity, which for me is definitely a good thing.
Anna Hope really excels in provoking emotion through her use of metaphor and I love the descriptions she comes up with. I really loved this line: “Over the next days she feels herself slipping, as though happiness were a dance whose steps she has forgotten.” There are several lines like this and I just find it the most beautiful way to convey emotion; it is something you can easily understand and relate to, and effortlessly demonstrates how the characters feel.
Expectation also provided some really interesting social commentary. There were conversations about what it means to be a generation, fears about the future, and ageing in a changing world. I also loved the inclusion of expectations placed on current generations by the previous generation: to achieve, to succeed, to improve, and how this is a burden that no generation asked for. I absolutely loved how there were little sentences alluding to ‘expectation’ throughout the novel–little references peppered throughout the novel like easter eggs in films. I found it really interesting, and it is definitely one of my favourite aspects of the novel. Everything linked back to the idea of expectation, and it was cleverly done.
I would definitely recommend this novel, especially if you enjoy character-driven novels with beautiful prose. I will be looking out for Anna Hope’s other books–The Ballroom and The Wake–as well as whatever she writes next.
If you haven’t already read it, have I convinced you to read Expectation?