Review: Expectation

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. They still have time, time to look backwards and look forwards

Every so often, and never really often enough, I read a book that blows my mind. A book that takes my breath away and that leaves me feeling a little bit bitter towards the author because why can I not do words like that.

I feel like that about Expectation by Anna Hope, which I was lucky enough to be sent a proof copy of, and which I read last week.

You must keep hold of your friendships, Lissa. The women. They're the only thing that will save you in the end.

Expectation follows the life of three young women, Hannah, Cate and Lissa, best friends with their lives ahead of them, lives heavy with the exciting weight of expectation.

10 years on, in their 30's (an age close to the age I am now) things are less bright because life rarely goes in the direction we expect it too and each of them, dissatisfied with their own lot, looks greedily at the life of the others.

It's a book about the power of friendship, how it can build you and break you and build you again; a book about growing up, but growing up not from teenager to adult but rather growing up into the person you are, from 20-something to 30-something to 40-something; a book about navigating your way through your own, sometimes choppy-watered, life and it is spectacular.

Why should it matter what her friends are doing? Why should her happiness be indexed to theirs? But it is.

I loved in part because it felt like a book about me. I said this last year when I read Dolly Alderton's Everything I Know About Love - that it felt like it had reached into me and laid bare all that I was. This book made me feel something similar. I, too, had a friendship group of 3 throughout much of my twenties, two girls (I still struggle to describe us as 'women') with whom I grew closer and then apart from and then oh so gradually closer again, girls who I am still friends with now even though, like Hannah and Cate and Lissa, those friendships do not look the same as they did fifteen years ago. Friends who, despite loving the bones of, I sometimes can't help but compare myself to.

I've watched them live their lives and hungered sometimes for what they had and I've laughed and cried and drunk more bottles of wine than I can count with both of them. Connected yet disconnected from one, attached by invisible elastic to the other and to read a book that explored that, the power of female friendship, of how it shifts and changes, how it can be both the best thing and the worst thing, I loved it. It felt authentic - I cared what happened to all of these characters because I have been all of these characters; each one of them felt whole and real and believable to me and whilst this was a book where nothing much happened outside of the every day I feel like it was what it was because of that: it was the mundane that drove it forward because the mundane is what we live isn't it, most of us? It was the mundanity that broke my heart reading this and the mundanity that mended 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?

Our best. We’re just doing our fucking best. 

The book moves through time and from perspective to perspective which sounds like a lot - we see these three in their mid-30's, their 20's, starting at university, in their 40's and it's a structure that kept me gripped. The jumps in time were never confusing, they blended seamlessly and the snapshots they gave were fascinating and gripping. I couldn't put this book down; when I was forced to I was desperate to get back to it, I was immersed, fully, in whatever year it happened to be at the time and never ever confused. Always, a little bit at the back of m mind, feeling keenly what Cate, Hannah, Lissa, felt; I keep coming back to that don't I, how much this book made me reflect on my own life. Anyhow, my point right this second is that yes, this book is fragmented, but it's like a patchwork quilt of a novel - little fragments of a bigger picture, taken apart and put carefully back together into something incredible and I can't even tell you how much I loved it.

As for the writing. Perhaps you shouldn't get me started on how incredibly beautifully written this book is because I may never stop. I posted about it on my Instagram when I was about halfway through I think and I described it as poetic, which it is, and I said it reminded me somehow of Jon McGregor's writing in that it was soft and powerful, gentle and rough and so so emotive, it's lyrical and it's beautiful and it says so much without saying anything at all and so many times it gave me goosebumps. Haunting, that's the word, and one of those books that you don't want to stop reading but that you also want to savour, one of those books that I think everybody who reads it will see something different in.

I finished it and immediately wanted to start reading it again.

I challenge the rest of the year to give me something better than this.