From the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Little Bee, a spellbinding novel about three unforgettable individuals thrown together by war, love, and their search for belonging in the ever-changing landscape of WWII London.
It’s 1939 and Mary, a young socialite, is determined to shock her blueblood political family by volunteering for the war effort. She is assigned as a teacher to children who were evacuated from London and have been rejected by the countryside because they are infirm, mentally disabled, or—like Mary’s favorite student, Zachary—have colored skin.
Tom, an education administrator, is distraught when his best friend, Alastair, enlists. Alastair, an art restorer, has always seemed far removed from the violent life to which he has now condemned himself. But Tom finds distraction in Mary, first as her employer and then as their relationship quickly develops in the emotionally charged times. When Mary meets Alastair, the three are drawn into a tragic love triangle and—while war escalates and bombs begin falling around them—further into a new world unlike any they’ve ever known.
A sweeping epic with the kind of unforgettable characters, cultural insights, and indelible scenes that made Little Bee so incredible, Chris Cleave’s latest novel explores the disenfranchised, the bereaved, the elite, the embattled. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven is a heartbreakingly beautiful story of love, loss, and incredible courage.
EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN
Chris Cleave’s, EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN, is the story of WWII England and its effects on the lives of three friends; Mary North, a young socialite, who leaves finishing school to join the war effort as a volunteer, Tom Shaw, an education administrator, madly in love with Mary but torn between working or enlisting and Alastair Heath, Tom’s best friend and art restorer, who feels called to duty and enlists in the military despite Tom’s reservations.
Chris Cleve’s description of the war and its effects on England leave little to the imagination. As the war progresses all three friends change as the carefree days of their youth are swept away with the horrors of war. While the majority of children reside in the relative safety of the countryside, Tom gives Mary a classroom of children to teach who have been outcast or left behind to fend for themselves. Her outrage at the treatment of black children and those infirmed drives her determination to provide for them an education and a normal daily routine as much as possible. Tom, who has fallen in love with Mary, constantly questions their relationship. He seems concerned over her attachment and dedication to the children she has been given to educate and protect. His feelings of inadequacy and fear of losing Mary’s love constantly plague him. These feelings of inadequacy only increase when he tries to enlist and is rejected. To further complicate matters, Alastair and Mary finally meet and their instant attraction is palpable leaving all they have come to believe in jeopardy. All this personal drama amid the backdrop of air raids, bombs, fear of enemy invasions and the loss of friends and compatriots leave the reader with a vivid portrait of the war and the effects on all those involved.
What I liked best about Chris Cleave’s novel is the dynamic friendships he creates, not only between the main characters, but between Mary and her school children, especially Zachary Lee. Mary’s fondness and tenderness for the child and her anger at society’s treatment of blacks leaves her incensed. I found myself cheering for her every time she bucked the system. Alastair’s dynamic leadership and the treatment of the men under his command is a testament to his noble character. I especially enjoyed Alastair’s friendship with Simonson. The affection, respect and constant bantering between the two was appreciated and entertaining. I almost felt sorry for Tom as I found myself comparing him to Alastair frequently and unfortunately found him wanting. The description of the air raids and bombings left me feeling weary and wondering when it would all end. I could only imagine the horror and fear of those who had to live through it. In conclusion the only criticism I had with the novel was the verbiage. Although beautifully written at times it was just too much.
If you read this novel, you will come away with a sense that war changes not only cities and landscapes, but people too. War can build character and bring out the best in us or the worst in us. Physical scars are visible, but emotional scars are raw, painful and most often the hardest to heal. Do yourself a favor and read EVRYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN. The characters are memorable and the story thought provoking.
I appreciate being given an advanced copy of Chris Cleave’s EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN for a fair and honest review.
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