In The Sudden Appearance of Hope, main character Hope Arden suffers from an unusual condition: no one can remember her. She meets people, chats with them, but they invariably forget everything about her when she leaves their range of vision for more than a minute or two. Even when she’s growing up, Hope’s parents are constantly surprised at the unfamiliar girl who shows up at the dinner table because every time she leaves the room, it’s as if they are meeting her for the first time.
Unsurprisingly, Hope is unable to lead anything resembling a normal life, but her unusual affliction does make her uniquely suited to the life of a high-stakes thief. While working on a big jewelry heist, she meets the creators of a new social app called Perfection, which slowly molds people to match unrealistic ideals of beauty and success.
The Sudden Appearance of Hope is the third novel by Claire North, after the excellent The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and Touch (not to mention the trio of connected novellas she released last year, or the dozen or so novels she’s published under other pen names). This new novel bears obvious similarities to the two other Claire North novel, especially the narration by the worldly-yet-lonely protagonist. While the previous two novels dealt with immortality, albeit in very different ways, this one focuses on memory, but the style is so immediately recognizable that most Claire North readers would easily identify The Sudden Appearance of Hope as one of her novels even if you removed her name from the cover.
Unfortunately, The Sudden Appearance of Hope is my least favorite of the three so far. While the “reverse amnesia” concept is fascinating, the second main element of this novel’s plot — the app Perfection — is somehow both unrealistic and predictable. The brilliant first half of this novel focuses mostly on Hope’s condition and its effects; later on, the focus shifts to Hope’s vendetta against the app Perfection and the company that created it. The pacing also gets more uneven as the novel progresses. As a result, this is one of those novels I expected to love early on, but started to enjoy less and less as I neared the end.
On the other hand, Hope is an utterly fascinating character who, all by herself, makes the novel worth reading. Claire North does an amazing job writing a unique character like Hope in a realistic way, including several odd but (for someone unable to make any meaningful social connections) understandable neuroses. Hope’s gorgeous, world-weary narration is recognizable from the previous two novels, but still a pleasure to read. I’d recommend The Sudden Appearance of Hope for fans of the author, but if you’re new to her works, start with The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.