How do you know you’re real if no one remembers you?

The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

As memory of me faded, so did a part of myself. Whoever that Hope Arden is who laughs with her friends, smiles with her family, flirts with her lover, resents her boss, triumphs with her colleagues – she ceased to exist, and it has been surprising for me to discover just how little of me is left behind, when all that is stripped away.

Hope Arden is the girl the world forgets. It started when she was 16 years old. A father forgetting to drive her to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A friend who looks at her and sees a stranger. No matter what she does, the words she says, the crimes she commits, you will never remember her.

This is a very clever book with a lot to say. What starts as a tale of magical realism quickly deepens into an exploration of identity, friendship and perfection.

In this book, Perfection is an app which helps users achieve a ‘perfect’ version of themselves. Users score points for obeying the app’s instructions – going to the gym, eating a healthy meal, attending an A-list party – and lose points for refusing to go along with its demands. This is one of the most interesting aspects of the book and, as it’s not so far from the world we currently live in, strikes eerily close to home.

Hope is a character unlike any other and her unique situation provides North with plenty of opportunity to muse on complicated emotions of loneliness and fear. How can Hope hold down a job if her boss won’t remember her? How will she find a place to live if her landlord forgets what she looks like? How does she know she’s real if no one remembers her?

My main problem with this book is simple: it’s just too long. I have nothing against doorstopper books if the story warrants the longer length, but this book could have been cut in half and very little would have been lost. It starts off slowly and the slow pace works at first as we get to know Hope as a character, but before long the minute attention to every last detail of Hope’s thought processes becomes repetitive and dull. Despite the brilliant writing I still found myself skim-reading large passages because I was bored.

If you’re a quick reader I would definitely recommend this book. However, those who prefer to take their time and move through a book a little more slowly might find themselves becoming too bored to carry on.

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