Hope gives us four interconnected stories. We meet Hettie, who dances with strangers for sixpence at the Palais. There's Ada, who can't forget the soldier son who died. And then there's Evelyn, who helps soldiers get their pensions while holding the memory of her only love who also died in France. All three are stuck in some way. As Hope unspools their stories, she also shows us the journey of the Unknown Warrior. This still unidentified soldier's body was carried from France to be reburied in Westminster Abbey "amongst the kings" on Armistice Day in 1920.
As Wake unfolds, revelations about the terrors and crimes of World War I come out. It becomes clear that even the people who weren't sent to fight were touched by the war. Hettie meets a veteran who enchants her but disturbs her. Edward Montfort was a captain during the war. The decisions he was forced make have turned him into a frivolous man and an alcoholic. Ada ends up seeking out a spiritualist who tells her to look to the man in her life who is still alive and to let go of her boy. Evelyn may have the hardest transformation of all. Her new co-worker, a wounded veteran, tentatively flirts with her. This flirtation, and a chance meeting with a man from her brother's company, spark new life in her.
Wake isn't so much about the events portrayed as it is about the emotions it evokes. It's a profoundly affecting read. Revealing the plot and the conclusion of Wake would ruin the effect of his incredibly skillfully written novel. The ending, the very last sentence, is a mark of brilliance. It will bother the hell out of some readers (a sure sign of genius in my book, 'scuz the pun).