It took me months to read Expectation.
Not because it’s not good but because it’s difficult. Not complicated, but difficult. Like eating a heavy chocolate cake, this book can only be consumed in small bites that you savour, otherwise, it will make you feel overwhelmed.
If you’re a woman, it hits particularly hard.
The way the characters develop with age and all the pressures they have to bear is a little too relatable for comfort. That being said, I’m glad I powered through those moments because the book rounds up to form a candid and human picture of adulthood, very appropriate to the life stage I’m at right now.
From the Publisher
What happened to the women we were supposed to become?
Hannah, Cate and Lissa are young, vibrant and inseparable. Living on the edge of a common in East London, their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry — and the promise of everything to come. They are electric. They are the best of friends.
Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be. Amidst flailing careers and faltering marriages, each hungers for what the others have. And each wrestles with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life?
Anna Hope built the story in a way that mimics life itself as the reader advances through the book. When you read, you feel everything from hope, empathy, heartache, frustration, fear, stress (what a unique feeling to be triggered by a book), forgiveness and finally acceptance.
The dreams, the spontaneity of youth, the potential of time stretching out infinitely ahead, the carelessness, the safety of making mistakes, all get ground to dust as the three main characters get older.
The profound exploration of womanhood and friendship is truly at the centre of what makes Expectation so good. Hannah’s frustrations about struggling to become a mother, Cate’s post-natal depression and constant doubt that she deserves to be where she is, and Lissa’s tight clutching at straws as she tries to come to grips with her changing beauty in middle age are all very human, very common struggles women face as they get older.
I thought the male-female relationships in the book also shined, particularly through the humanity of the characters. Everyone in the novel is so relatably flawed that you can’t help but root for all of them. No one is glorified and no one is antagonised, they’re all average people living average lives and trying to be happy. We need more books with average characters.
I could go on and on about the characters and the symbolic of their relationships. The book explores different kinds of generation gaps, as well as grief, parenthood in its many forms, single-parent families, and the idea of not wanting children.
‘Expectation’: An Excellent Analysis of Womanhood
Anna Hope excels in her subtle but strong portrayal of womanhood in its many complex forms.
From motherhood, to career life, to marriage, to the status of daughter, sister or best friend, Expectation is a realistic and hugely complete representation of what it means to be a woman.
The friendship element is the key theme of the book, but its true potential shines as it branches into other aspects of life and in how it explores each woman’s feelings about the lives of her other two friends.
Hannah, Cate and Lissa all want something the others have, from children, to beauty, to careers, to relationships. As women, the pressure to have it all figured out and do it well as we age is a lot heavier and the consequences feel a lot harsher when we inevitably fail to be the perfect mother, wife, friend, and daughter.
It is therefore human and justified to long for things other people have that you lack, a feeling that has been always vilified especially in women. The misogynistic stereotype that women are mean to each other and envy other women is largely based on the very common and natural instinct to feel frustrated when others have what you need.
The way Anna Hope explores this theme and makes the reader strongly identify with it, helps reshape our mentalities and encourages us to be kinder to ourselves and to those around us.
I gave it 4/5 stars.
Eliza Lita is a freelance writer based in the UK. She covers books and reading, health, fitness, lifestyle, and personal development. For more of her stories, please consider signing up for a Medium membership through her referral link.