Hope Against Hope

Little Island. May 2023. 240p. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781912417421.
Gr 7 Up–Ireland, 1921. Fifteen-year-old Polly is struggling with the aftermath of one war and the beginning of another. Her older brother, Leo, returned from the Great War with PTSD, alternately loving and violent. Her rural village is split in two—by the map and by rising tensions—due to the newly established border between Protestant Northern Ireland and the Catholic Republic of Ireland. She faces a bleak future of domestic servitude, limited to caring for Leo and their father. After an argument with Leo leaves her beaten and bloodied, Polly runs away to Belfast to join her cousin Caroline, who is studying at a secretarial college and living in a women’s hostel. The hostel, named Helen’s Hope, and the community of people she meets there help Polly come into her own. Belfast is a shock to Polly, not just because it’s a large city, but due to the violence, mistrust, and growing hatred between Protestant and Catholic residents. Wilkinson uses the characters of Helen’s Hope to help readers, through Polly, understand the complex, often contradictory issues dividing the country. It’s a pivotal moment in the plot when the staff hosts a neighborhood party to encourage tolerance. The party results in both success and tragedy, but the women of the hostel embody the author’s faith in the real people whose bravery keeps hope alive for peace in Ireland. Historical notes and an author interview provide much-needed context.
VERDICT Give to readers who love historical fiction and are eager for an engaging story they’ve likely not heard in depth before.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing