Thursday, June 9, 2016

Review: Everyone Brave Is Forgiven

In Everyone Brave is Forgiven, we meet three London residents at the beginning of World War II. Alastair Heath has signed up to fight and is going through basic training. His best friend and roommate Tom Shaw stays in London to ensure the future of English schoolchildren. Mary North enlists to spite her wealthy family, with the expectation that she will become a glamorous spy. Instead, she is assigned to the education department and becomes a teacher. Their lives will intertwine in unexpected ways in the rubble of the London Blitz and on the battle-worn island of Malta.

Chris Cleave excels at bringing the major and the minor moments and concerns into the same story. Obviously, this is a story about the effects of war on both soldiers and civilians. Mary and Tom and Alastair have to grapple with what it means to be a good person (and if it's even worth it to be one) when death is indiscriminately everywhere. When most of London's children are sent to the countryside, Mary fights to teach the students left behind. This gives her new insight into what it means to be seen as a less desirable person, as the children left behind are the ones who are disabled or aren't white. It was interesting and disturbing to see how the people in Mary's life reacted to her teaching and becoming invested in the lives of these unwanted children. Mary is perhaps the character who develops the most throughout this book. She starts as a girl looking to defy her parents and be seen as glamorous as she assists the war effort. But we see her slowly realize just how to care for others and put them before herself.

We see the terror and heartbreak of war in moments both big and small; Allistar has almost made it back to base with a fellow soldier when his companion steps on landmine and Mary is distraught as she sits in a schoolroom that should be full of children and realizes that they have been robbed of both their education and their childhood. This story is incredibly tense throughout. I had moments of real fear for all three of the main characters, which defies everything we think we know about novels.

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven is both incredibly specific and stunningly universal. How do we as humans continue to live when our world is literally falling down around us? Do we risk ourselves for others or try to stay safe? Where is the time to have a breakdown and grieve your losses when another raid or battle is just hours away? What is left of ourselves and our countries after the war is over?

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven
By Chris Cleave
Simon and Schuster May 2016
432 pages
Read via Netgalley


  1. This sounds like an interesting book! It sounds like you liked it. It might be a good one to try for a newly published book.

  2. I wish I had had the time to finish this book when I had an ARC of it. I liked what I read, but I had to return it to a coworker to read other stuff for work instead. I love how you make it sound!

  3. This sounds wonderful! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  4. Wow. If I was still in a book club, I'd recommend this book. But I guess I'll have to read it on my own. :)

  5. Thanks for the review. Sounds interesting.

  6. "the major and the minor moments and concerns into the same story" <- I really love books that manage to do this! I feel as though the small moments make a story seem real, but it's also nice to have a book that makes me think about bigger issues.