I need to start this review by saying I’m (still) really really unsure how I felt about this book. I noted someone on Goodreads commented that it was really hard to categorise Claire North’s work and that’s certainly the case.
I wasn’t entirely sure WHAT I was reading for much of the novel and was just worried I was being tricked in some way and the book was all about ‘hope’ the emotion, rather than Hope, the person. I kept waiting for someone to leap out and laughingly remind me how obtuse and literal I can be.
The Sudden Appearance of Hope
by Claire North
Published by Orbit
on May 31st 2016
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Literary Fiction
My name is Hope Arden, and you won't know who I am. We've met before - a thousand times. I am the girl the world forgets.
It started when I was sixteen years old. A slow declining, an isolation, one piece at a time.A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A teacher who forgets to chase my missing homework. A friend who looks at me and sees a stranger.
No matter what I do, the words I say, the people I hurt, the crimes I commit - you will never remember who I am.
That makes my life difficult. It also makes me dangerous...
Hope Arden is inexplicably forgettable. It’s like some inverse type of dementia affecting everyone but the victim and I’m reminded of my dad who couldn’t remember what happened just minutes before.
Look away from Hope for a minute or more and you forget her completely.
“It’s as if you are invisible, one moment to the next. You exist only in this moment, and then your face is eaten by memory.” p 271
Hope started stealing out of necessity – to survive – but now loves the challenge. She’s been caught a couple of times and even has an Interpol officer dedicated to tracking her down, but they’re incapable of remembering who she is, so she constantly slips through their fingers.
She’s planning a heist in Dubai when she comes across PERFECTION, which (like Hope, the person) is not just an ideal in this book, but rather an App.
North’s obviously sending a not-so-subtle message here as the PERFECTION App sweeps the world. You earn bonus points and climb the ladder to ‘perfection’ (the ideal). So before you know it the company behind PERFECTION (Prometheus) knows your life inside and out. Like Santa, it knows when you’ve been good and bad. It follows your movements, checks your credit card receipts and chastises you for pizza, recommending meals based on calories and nutrients.
You know you’ve made it when you reach the 106 Club. By then users are addicted to perfection. The ideal AND the App.
But Hope’s a non-believer.
Through the darknet Hope meets someone else with concerns about PERFECTION and agrees to the ultimate heist – stealing the App’s code and allowing it to be destroyed from within.
Ahhh… but of course, everything comes at a cost and it may be too late before Hope realises the cost to be paid for the downfall of PERFECTION.
Once I got over the fact that I may be reading something I didn’t understand, I settled down. Spoiler alert… I don’t believe there is an big metaphorical type meaning other than the obvious. Like I said, I kept waiting to discover that Hope the person didn’t exist and ‘hope’s’ disappearance said something about society and where we’re headed. But, rest assured… Hope really is a person. Not an ideal. #Ithink
North’s writing is brilliant. It’s weird, but brilliant. I’ve not read her work before but here she inserts definitions and the occasional poetic-like paragraphs.
I thought about answering, but didn’t want to, so opened my eyes again to see the now, the night, feel the cold and hear the quiet, and sat a while longer, and thought about nothing at all.
I am Hope.
I am a thief.
I am a machine.
I am living.
I am unworthy.
I am righteous.
I am none of these.
No words can contain me. p 268
Much of North’s language is beautiful. She uses a lot of short staccato-like sentences, but it works.
I liked Hope and we were provided with a great insight into who she is. Her ‘need’ to live in the moment is very interesting and something to which many aspire. Indeed, one of the people she meets envies Hope’s freedom. And doesn’t understand her loneliness.
“I find that the only way I can survive is in the present tense. If I look at my past, I see loneliness. Loneliness and… mistakes made of loneliness. If I look to my future, I see fear. Struggle. The possibility of so much pain. And so I look only at now, at this present tense, and ask myself, what am I doing now? Who am I now?” p 459
The plot itself is interesting, but it’s the messages and writing I loved the most.
I bookmarked page after page. Quote after quote.
Some messages are pretty obvious – our reliance on technology, our addiction to living our lives online and our neverending desire to attain perfection at any cost. But then there are the less obvious… Hope’s isolation. Suggestions of what our lives are like when there’s no one around to notice what we do. Our intangibility. The impermanence of our imprint on the world.
Interestingly, as I’ve been writing this, I’ve felt the urge to adjust my initial rating as the more I think about it, the more I appreciate what it offers.
The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North was released in Australia by Hachette and is now available.
I received a copy from the publisher for review purposes.