The Sudden Appearance of Hope was a book club choice from Gordon, who suggested it on the basis that he had loved Claire North’s earlier novel, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. I hadn’t previously heard of Claire North and didn’t really know what to expect from the book, but I know everyone in my book club has great taste, so I was looking forward to reading it.
The premise is this: At some point in her late childhood, people start to forget Hope. They’ll meet her, chat to her, and then turn their back for a minute and completely forget the interaction ever took place and that they ever met her. This happens repeatedly, no matter how long she has known them for, or how many times they speak to her.
Hope turns to a life of crime. After all, the people she steals from can’t remember her, nor can the authorities, so it’s kind of easy. Plus, if you can’t form relationships, it’s hard to have much sympathy for society as a whole. Hope is great at first impressions – she can make as many of them as she likes until she gets them right. She’s bad at getting service in restaurants (she mentions that she quite likes buffets).
Meanwhile, a new app is called Perfection is becoming wildly popular. Perfection tracks your habits from eating to spending to what your job is and who you spend time with. It gives you points for habits that will move you towards being “perfect” and deducts them when you don’t. Points can be exchanged for things like discounts on products that will help you be more perfect, or spa days, or gym memberships.
Hope doesn’t like perfection because it’s creepy and controlling and potentially very harmful. So she goes to war against the powerful organisation that runs it and this makes up the adventures she has during this story.
I personally really liked the writing style. We see the world through Hope’s eyes and follow her coping mechanisms, which include reciting facts she knows and compulsively counting things. Others in the book group found the style distracting and would have preferred to have been simply told the story. I don’t know, it worked for me.
I also thought the book would make a great TV series (at first I thought a movie, but I think there’s too much interesting material here). There’s lots of suspense and well-written action scenes. Plus, I’d love to see how an intrinsically forgettable character would be portrayed on the screen.
So I enjoyed the book. I understand it’s been less successful than the First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, so I’m now very tempted to read that as well.