Book Review: The Age of Hope

Before I launch in to my encouragement for all to go and grab this book, I’ll give you some background story on how it came in to my hands. See, I wasn’t really supposed to be reading this one. I’ve got 2 BookerMarks reads to get through first, and one is “due” by Tuesday.  My e-reader is slowly dying and I have to wait for until “early October” (that’s what they say) until my new Kobo arrives. The plan then was to forgo the frustration of only reading in half hour installments of Bring Up the Bodies for the BookerMarks project and pull the hard copy from the shelves at the library.

Well, we do well earn the Literary Hoarders title, and entering the library perhaps brings even bigger issues for us than entering a bookstore, or opening a bag of potato chips. There is just no way you can grab/eat one and walk away. So while browsing, I see The Age of Hope, by David Bergen perched innocently on the New Reads shelf. This title has also been given to us courtesy of Net Galley, but to repeat the above, my e-reader is totally dying on me. So why not grab the hardcover? Turns out that The Age of Hope has a number of holds on it by library patrons also eager for the read, but if I promise to have it back in 7 days the librarian said she would turn her eyes and ignore the blinking message(s) appearing on her computer screen. :-)

Now, I’ve also really earned a mental health day from work (very well-earned I tell ya!) and decided to take this Thursday to myself to enjoy some much needed calming and quieting time. You know that plan meant the devotion of an entire day to reading. So with that knowledge, plus knowing I only had a few days for this title, I put Ms. Mantel on the back burner and nestled in to The Age of Hope.

It’s like Bergen (and Hope) knew I had this day coming to me. They whispered in to my ears to make sure I grabbed it and didn’t return it when it was discovered many others wanted it. In further pure perfection, the skies opened up and poured rain with the added wonderful bonus of thunder. Complete Heaven. Pop in a relaxing CD and away we go. Now, I just got the distinct sense that Mr. Bergen wrote that book purposely to be enjoyed on rainy mental health days! The Age of Hope was a fantastic read for this rainy day spent curled up reading. Absolutely perfect.

We follow Hope through the stages of her life, first in “The Age of Innocence“, when Hope meets Roy, abandons her nursing studies to marry and settle in to life of a car dealership owning lifestyle. She always wanted kids anyway right? 4 kids later and Hope finds herself utterly lonely and very unhappy. Bergen wonderfully captures the bored housewife in the waning years of the 50s, with Hope’s days filled with aimlessness, boredom and despair. The next stage is “The Age of Despair“. Hope is increasingly unhappy with her life raising 4 kids and the abject loneliness she experiences daily. She tries to understand and  live life vicarously through her best friend Emily. Emily has left her husband, taken up smoking pot along with many lovers, as we usher in the 60s era. Hope voluntarily checks in to the asylum in Winkler and feels continued dissatisfaction with her family life. Next is Hope’s “Age of Profit“. Roy’s dealership is expanding affording them a wealthy lifestyle. Yet, she is still feeling despair as her children are all coming in to their own and leaving the nest, something which Hope cannot grasp or again experiences unhappiness in how her life is evolving. Coupled with the era of “Me”, Roy loses the dealership to the bank and Hope and Roy are cast out of their community and into a more impoverished lifestyle. Finally, we come to “The Age of Hope“. Roy has passed on (I cried here!) and Hope is becoming content in her solo existence and coming to terms with her family and the realization that she has led a full and fulfilling life.

The Age of Hope is a splendid tale of a Canadian women’s life in rural Manitoba through the 50s generation ending in present time.  There may be times throughout this story mind you, where you become quite frustrated with Hope. She seems to flail about, unable to find herself and her passivity may grate a touch on your nerves. However, I think Bergen has wonderfully encapsulated a woman stuggling to define herself and understand her purpose and meaning of her life  amid the much varied eras from the 1950s to modern day. 

A solid 4-star read for me! It was just the right read at the right time!