I’ve been so looking forward to writing this review – Expectation is not my usual genre so I’m thrilled that I enjoyed it so much.
The novel follows three female friends – Cate, Hannah and Lissa – as they navigate their lives from university through to adulthood. It alternates between their university years and the present day to accentuate the differences between what their expectations of their future were, and the reality of how it turned out. If you’re a glass half-empty person that sounds sort of depressing, but actually it’s a refreshing reflection of what is simply life.
The story is raw, meandering through the mundane intricacies of modern life without a fairytale happy ending. As a twenty-something female who is constantly comparing my success against my expectations from 10 years ago, I can empathise with the characters thoughts over and over. We’ve all overreacted to our supposed shortcomings in this very way:
“… as though loss were a black hole, pulling all the potential futures, all the things you might have been, all the successes, the loves, the children, the self-respect you might have had, down into it.”
And the novel knows it, too:
“Sometimes it seems that the list of their worries is endless, that they are corroded by worry, hollow with it – they and everybody else they talk to, these days”.
The narrative is peppered with realisations that expose not only how much our lives change, but also how our perceptions of happiness change:
“She sees herself reflected in the driftwood mirror. This stupid black dress. Her make-up, smudged now. All of it broken. All of it over. It is all so absurd.”
“’It wasn’t worth it,’ she says again. ‘None of it.’ And she gestures as she speaks, at herself, at him, at the sudden painful squalor of it all.”
Which brings me to wonder what Anna Hope is really trying to convey in this novel; is it that we place too many expectations on ourselves? Is it that our expectations are never realistic? I think it could be many things, but summed up succinctly in one sentence:
“… in an expectation that the story will continue as it should.”
In wishing that something will last forever, whatever that may be, we are all part of a generation just learning that life is never what it seems. And I’m honest when I say that, although Expectation brings to the fore all the defeatist thoughts we exasperate on a regular basis, we are not alone in our struggle. And there is beauty in it:
“It is not an ending or a new beginning. Or perhaps it is. But if it is an ending, it is not clean, or neat – it is simply the part where one pattern joins another. It is made of blood and sinew and bone”
Expectation was featured in a Waterstones podcast about friendship, if you’re interested in listening to what they had to say about the novel 🙂