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The Age Of Hope by David Bergen

The Age Of Hope

by David Bergen

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7711221,449 (3.69)32
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    Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright (gypsysmom)
    gypsysmom: Another story about a woman written by a man

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
2.5 stars. I disliked the detached, flat tone that never varied through the book. Much as I wanted to, I could feel no connection with the main character. ( )
  Siubhan | Feb 28, 2018 |
This is the story of Hope from adolescence to old age. Raised in a Mennonite community, but as a non-practicing family, Hope is raised during the '50's to believe that marriage is the main goal but a career is a good thing to also have. Hope leaves nursing to marry Roy, who is an ideal husband for that period - becomes a very successful businessman, works long hours, builds the family a dream home and fathers four children. Hope is the dutiful wife but suffers emotionally and has two major burnouts complete with stays in the psychiatric hospital. Roy goes bankrupt then dies. Hope finally begins to live for herself. A decent look at that era and the lonely pressures of the ordinary "housewife". ( )
  CarterPJ | Oct 9, 2013 |
An evocative yet subtle tragedy, made less effective by Bergen's often stilted language. I was glad when it was over. ( )
  Aleesa | Jun 13, 2013 |
hmmm....this one is a bit tricky for me, in comparison to the other books for this year's canada reads debates. unlike the other books i have read for the event already (two solitudes and indian horse), the age of hope did not suck me in from page one. bergen did a wonderful job with hope (i am always impressed when an author has success writing in the opposite gender) but it wasn't until i was nearly 2/3 of the way through that things clicked for me. i appreciate quiet stories, internal stories examining a life. but i had a hard time connecting with hope. which is a cheeseball thing to say, i know. i had empathy for hope but i was frustrated with her a lot of the time too. there were some scenes later on in the novel that, should ron maclean talk about them, well it's just gonna be icky and awkward. it was skeeing me out a bit just imagining this scenario. i think depression and post-partum depression are amazing issues to have addressed in fiction...i just don't know how true bergen's version is ringing and i am very curious how people who live with these illnesses feel about his specific interpretation.

of interest (to me): so far all three books - indian horse, two solitudes and age of hope feature quiet stories, loneliness/isolation, internal conflict and lots of literary references. the characters are very bookish. i find it fascinating that, from the options of five books per region, the people representing their choice each went with stories that reflect these ideas. so i am wondering what this says about canadian writers and readers?

on page 2 of hope, ..."she began to understand his death as something that happened to him, not to her." was also addressed in a section within two solitudes. ( )
  Booktrovert | Apr 5, 2013 |
I'm going to preface this book review by saying that I know that the book sounds quite boring, but for me, it was a wonderful read and I turned the pages quickly. So bear with me as I attempt to review the book. It is a quiet , reflective narrative.

In 1930, Hope Plett is born, only child of a Scottish mother and a fallen away Mennonite father. Ernie Plett enjoys the drink and the pleasures of the flesh. Born in the fictional town of Eden, Manitoba, ( a thinly disguised Steinbach Manitoba) Hope quickly realizes that her status in this small Mennonite town is different from the majority of the towns' people. She differs in matters of faith , ethnic background, language as well as finances and status. Her family of origin is not a prosperous one. Hope is both an interesting yet very ordinary person who is somewhat passive and tries to blend into the community.

We meet Hope in 1949 as her mother encourages her to pursue a career in nursing, to ensure that Hope does not have to endure the life that her mother has ,financially trapped with an alcoholic husband. While training at a hospital in Winnipeg, Hope meets Roy Koop. Roy Koop is 4 years older, teaches Sunday School in Mennonite Church in Eden, and works for his father at a GM dealership in Eden. Roy is a respectable, kind man, but not especially given to deep communication. Hope drops out of nursing school to marry Roy, but within 6 months of marriage Hope is " already wearied by domestic duties and not given to joining women's groups" ( p. 35.), so she begins to travel from Eden into Winnipeg to shop and lunch on her own.

In time Hope has her first child, Judith. " She did not breastfeed Judith. It was not promoted nor encouraged."(p43). Hope goes on to have three more children, the last of whom is unwanted by Hope . Hope ends up with a bad postpartum depression and spends time getting electroshock therapy in a mental institution following the birth of her fourth and last child.

On one hand Hope is very passive and tries to maintain the status quo, but her best and only friend is Mrs Emily Schroeder, who encourages Hope to expand her reading to books like Lady Chatterly's Lover, Lolita and the like. Through Emily Schroeder, Hope is introduced to the age of feminism, but never fully subscribes. Meantime, Hope's husband Roy remains steadfast, prosperous, encouraging, but he is not an emotional man , and Hope finds that she and her husband have little meaningful communication. While Hope experiences various disappointments and challenges with their four children, Roy seems immune to worry about the children. We follow Hope even after her husband passes away, her life as a widow, and we come to know her rather unconventional adult children .

While I realize that The Age of Hope sounds boring, I found it to be compelling and absorbing reading . Not much action happens in the book, yet many of Hope's experiences resonated with me, and I could also see my own mother in Hope.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys character development, a reflective read with many strands, and to those who have/ had a mother and those who are mothers.

Well done, David Bergen. I'm still pondering on Hope Koop, that seemingly ordinary woman and all that she represents. ( )
8 vote vancouverdeb | Feb 24, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
The paradox of the novel is that Bergen thwarts his laudable, albeit rather shopworn, aim of demonstrating that the “plain life” of an intra-war-born ’50s housewife is full of rich, untapped complexity...There’s some unintentional irony late in the novel when Hope’s daughter Penny announces she’s planning to write a novel based on her mother’s life. Hope counters by saying that Emily, the freethinking feminist friend who introduced her to R.D. Laing and Betty Friedan, might be a more interesting subject. Bergen gambles and loses on this one: as readers it’s hard not to agree, although Penny never gets around to writing the novel anyway.
If I were asked what happens in this book, I could not sum it up in a sentence. Hope just lives her life. There is not a lot of action, yet the pace of the narrative remains active. If I ever meet Bergen, I’ll ask how he manages to pull this off, because the effect is seamless. I had four other books to review this week, and I didn’t feel the urge to skim or skip a single paragraph of The Age of Hope....Why is Bergen so magical? What has he done with my cynical reviewer’s mind? The Age of Hope is a quiet read, but one that is rhythmic and compelling, and the plot, whatever there is of it, is perfectly taut. I wish I could describe to you how he did this, but I do not know. Bergen took a risk, with a book that looks and sounds like forgettable book club fare, but is anything but. The risk paid off.
The Age of Hope tracks Hope’s days, lighting on key moments but otherwise flitting over the surface of events. The reader yearns to be submerged, a delicious, headlong plunge into detail that would invigorate Hope. Instead, her story is too deliberately plotted, as if such ordinariness must be marinated in absence and then suddenly served with hot peppers...Bergen is an inside observer of Mennonite culture, and his depictions of Eden’s limitations (frugal to the point of parsimony, narrow to constriction), are precise and persuasive....And there may be the crux of this novel’s success and failure. Look for a plethora of books about women contemplating their lives: Middle-aged women are the readers, the thinkers and the purchasers of books. They are the market. If only Hope could redeem her marketeer.
Bergen channels Alice Munro, or perhaps Carol Shields, in trying to write a slow-boiling domestic novel with a political undercurrent. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything particularly new or inspired in The Age of Hope. Yes, things happen: Hope has a nervous breakdown and spends time in a mental hospital; her husband Roy’s car dealership fails and bankrupts the family; their son Conner marries a shrew who eventually leaves him; Penny falls in with a religious cult. But the book’s underlying themes have been presented before – and more skilfully – in countless other works.
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Hope Plett would certainly have married her first love if he hadn't died in a plane crash minutes after flying at a low altitude over her house.
One who throws a stone has power over it until he has thrown it, but not afterwards.
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Born in 1930 in a small town outside Winnipeg, beautiful Hope Koop appears destined to have a conventional life. Church, marriage to a steady young man, children-her fortunes are already laid out for her, as are the shiny modern appliances in her new home. All she has to do is stay with Roy, who loves her. But as the decades unfold, what seems to be a safe, predictable existence overwhelms Hope. Where-among the demands of her children, the expectations of her husband and the challenges of her best friend, Emily, who has just read The Feminine Mystique-is there room for her? And just who is she anyway? A wife, a mother, a woman whose life is somehow unrealized? This beautifully crafted and perceptive work of fiction spans some fifty years of Hope Koop's life in the second half of the 20th century, from traditionalism to feminism and beyond. David Bergen has created an indelible portrait of a seemingly ordinary woman who struggles to accept herself as she is, and in so doing becomes unique.
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Born in 1930 in a small town outside Winnipeg, beautiful Hope Koop appears destined to have a conventional life. Church, marriage to a steady young man, children, her fortunes are already laid out for her, as are the shiny modern appliances in her new home. All she has to do is stay with Roy, who loves her. But as the decades unfold, what seems to be a safe, predictable existence overwhelms Hope. An indelible portrait of a seemingly ordinary woman who struggles to accept herself as she is, and in so doing becomes unique.… (more)

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