Audiobook Review: The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Hachette Audio (May 17, 2016)
Length: 16 hrs and 36 mins
Author Information: Website | Twitter
Narrator: Gillian Burke
Claire North’s books tend to be very hard to categorize, and describing them always makes me feel like I’m talking myself through some fascinating thought experiment. Last year, I discovered the author when I picked up her novel Touch, a thriller about an immortal character whose consciousness could jump from body to body, choosing to be anyone they want, live any life they want, for however long they want—and their hosts won’t remember a thing. I ended up loving my first taste of North’s work, so this time, I decided to try her new book in audio for my next mind-trip: The Sudden Appearance of Hope, a story about a young woman who can’t be remembered.
Imagine not being able to remain in anyone’s memory long enough for them to look back after walking out of view, or even just briefly after breaking line of sight. You can meet someone for the first time multiple times, or have the same conversations with them over and over again because they can never remember. Trying to get service in a store or in a restaurant would be a major pain in the ass, and visits to the hospital can be at best a frustrating situation (nurse forgets that you were put in a waiting room), or at worst a life or death predicament (surgeon steps away to use the toilet while you’re on the operating table). You’ll live a mostly solitary existence, unable to form lasting relationships. Share a meal with someone, and all they’ll remember afterwards is eating alone. Even your parents will end up forgetting you. It’s a tricky, tragic, lonely life.
But on the other hand, if no one will ever remember you, what’s to stop you from doing anything you want? You can have a bad day and vent your spleen at an incompetent clerk, leave and it’ll be like your outburst never happened. Punch someone in the face then run away, and no one will be the wiser. Or you can rob a jewelry store, snatch someone’s wallet right out of their hands, and before anyone can even call the police, you’ll be lost in the crowd and everyone would have forgotten you were even there.
That’s the life of Hope Arden, who started fading from everyone’s memory when she was just sixteen years old. Since a proper job, a proper life, a proper anything is out of the question, she has decided to partake in all the criminal activities best suited for someone with her strange condition. Being an international jewel thief helps pay the bills, and it also gives her the satisfaction of stealing from the hoity-toity rich.
But then, going against all her own rules, Hope lets it get personal. A woman commits suicide in a posh hotel in Dubai, the site of our protagonist’s latest heist. At the heart of it is something called Perfection, a lifestyle app that gains access to all your schedules and bank accounts, monitoring everything you are and everything you do. It will make suggestions—what to eat, what to wear, who to date, where to vacation, etc.—and reward you with points when you do what it says, all to nudge you towards becoming a “better” and more “perfect” person. Just the idea of the app repulses Hope, but in it she does find a new target for her anger and a new cause to fight for.
I was really blown away by how North was able to construct this entire multi-layered narrative around just one remarkable, singular idea: What if no one can remember you? At one point, Hope even meets someone with the exact same kind of condition, which was certainly an interesting few chapters. If you had described that situation to me before I read this, I would have said it would make an excellent short story. But 500-page book? How can you write about an idea like that and expand it so you don’t wear out the novelty?
Well, Claire North showed me how it can be done, and not only that, she made it suspenseful, absorbing, and highly emotional. As human beings, we all seem to be obsessed with the idea of “leaving a legacy”. There’s this natural desire to be remembered, if not for ourselves then for our actions. For someone whose ability to make an impression is stripped away, that can be psychologically devastating, and in Hope we see the full range of those effects. What’s the value of personhood, after all, if no one can remember you long enough to appreciate it? Perhaps that is why Perfection is so abhorrent to Hope, because it makes an individual erase themselves little by little, when they already have something Hope will never experience.
And speaking of emotional, the narration on this audiobook is absolutely fantastic. Gillian Burke allows for every single feeling to come across in her voice, from giddiness to melancholy, fury to terror. Hope’s story takes us on all these ups and downs and Burke manages to capture all those moments in her reading. When I researched her narrator profile, she describes herself as having a mixed ancestry, coming from “nowhere and everywhere”, thus giving her a natural talent for different accents. It definitely shows in her narration for this book, which takes us all over the world to meet characters from cities like Dubai, London, Hong Kong, Paris, Venice, Seoul, Cairo, Edinburgh, Tokyo, and more.
The Sudden Appearance of Hope ended up being everything I expected from a novel by Claire North: original, entertaining, and hard-hitting. Her stories are always so different, which may or may not work depending on the kind of reader you are. I never know whether her books will run hot or cold for me, so it was nice to dive into this audiobook and come out on the other side with a very positive experience. I enjoyed this one a lot!
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Great review, while it doesn’t sound like my usual book at the same time it sounds really intriguing and I may have to add it to the growing TBR list. 🙂
You should give it a try! Claire North isn’t for everyone, but she’s is always full of surprises 🙂
I’m glad to see you enjoyed this! I loved The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and want to try her other books as well.
I haven’t read Harry August yet! Actually kind of nervous about starting it, because the reviews are kind of mixed, but I’m pretty much willing to try anything of hers now 🙂
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad review for Harry August… It’s amazing, and frankly I found Touch to be quite disappointing relative to it.
Yeah, like I was saying I think Claire North’s stuff can either run hot or cold depending on the type of reader you are. I have three or four friends on goodreads whose tastes are similar to mine say that they DNF’ed Harry August because they just couldn’t take it, but a couple of them said that Touch also kept them hooked. I did love Touch, so I guess we’ll see when I finally get to read TFFLoHA.
Do get me wrong, I didn’t dislike Touch at all. I really liked, but I loved tFFLoHA – loved it! I think it was my favorite book released in 2014. It and Touch do share a lot of the same themes, so I wonder if the order in which they’re read has a factor in how much each is enjoyed.
I’m really looking forward to tSAoH, it seems like I have barely anytime to read right now though. I do think it will be my next book though. It probably would have been my current read, but I forgot it was on my kindle, ha, kismet?
I’m glad to hear that the two books share a lot of the same themes! It certainly makes me feel a lot less nervous knowing that, since if I liked one it probably means I’ll like the other 🙂
And I hope you’ll enjoy TSAoH. It’s very different from Touch, but the ideas are pure Claire North!
It’s a very fascinating premise, and a scary one as well: we all have wondered, one time or another, what it would be like to see and remain unseen, but this brings that kind of whimsy to another level, one that carries a note of fear to it, because no one would like to be so easily forgotten…. I believe it could be an engrossing read, indeed.
Great review! 🙂
I think it could be a really cool superpower to have, but only if you can turn it on or off at will, lol. Living like that and having all your friends and family forget you and then not being able to form any more lasting relationships…putting it that way, maybe not 😛
I could easily see how one could jump to a life of crime if given this ability, but for more than the money, it seems like Hope is doing it out of lonely and sadness. Why bother to try to meet new people and make relationships when they can NEVER last. Each person you meet would merely be a reminder of how lonely you will forever be in your life. Instead, block all that down, and take the only things you can take from other people: their money and possessions.
Also, what the heck is up with those sticker designs on covers these days?! Just no. Take them off.
Yes, it’s definitely a bit of both for Hope. There’s the thrill of being able to get away with otherwise impossible to pull off heists, but also it’s like an outlet for her frustration and anger at her condition. So you are very right.
And I am with you on the covers, Orbit and Redhook seem to be really into that and I hate it!
Glad you enjoyed this one. It’s a really interesting concept and I’m glad the author didn’t try to give explanations. It was a book of two halves for me, I really enjoyed the first half but struggled a bit more when the focused changed. I can understand how this would work so well for audio though.
Yeah, I think the slower parts were easier to get through in audio, there’s less of an opportunity for me to zone out when I’m listening rather than reading 🙂 I agree the second half was weaker than the first though, I thought all the interesting bits were in the beginning.
I’m thinking of reading this one as I loved Touch. But her other book was a bit of a miss for me.
I think this might work for you. At least the beginning, not sure how you’ll like the end since as Lynn says, the second half does take a bit of a different direction.
Wow, I really love the concept of this one. The idea of people forgetting you the moment they walk away pushes all the right buttons for me, for some reason.
I hadn’t heard of Claire North before, but I’ll definitely plan on checking this one out.
I’ve only read two books by Claire North, but both books have been absolutely fascinating! I also really highly recommend Touch.
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I have never tried her books so I would not know what to expect 🙂
Expect to be mind-blown! She always seems to have these out-of-the-box ideas 😀
Wonderful review as always. Probably not my type of books, but you definitely tempt me to give it a try.
Yeah, I was worried initially that this wouldn’t be my type of book either, on top of the fact her books are so hard to categorize. This one had enough of a spec fic element to it that I thought I’d give it a shot 🙂
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