May 3, 2016

Everyone Brave is Forgiven. Chris Cleave

book cover
Published:Hachette NZ
Date: 26th April 2016
Format: Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source:Thanks to Hachette NZ
5 stars         Add to Goodreads
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.

My thoughts banner
Everyone Brave is Forgiven is set in the early part of WW11. Recently it seems numerous books have been written with this time frame. So what does one more have to offer? Hasn't everything been explored? It seems to me... and I have read a good number of books set in this time, that this book has something new to say, with a unique voice.

Chris Cleave took the experience of his grandparents during WW11 and wrote his own fictional story of the war. He visited Malta, where some of the book takes place and explored the places his grandfather knew in his time there in service during the war. He talked to the local people, he got a real feel for the place. It was with sadness I read his words saying that his grandfather died just before Cleave's book was published in its final form. 

This is a shocking and powerful read. There are terrible moments. In one such moment I chuckled out loud at the shock of it, then paused and realised it just was not funny, as I imagined those ambulance people struggling with what they were doing. It is horrifying - some of the prejudices and attitudes towards others, those who happened to have a black skin, those who were crippled or deformed. And while I was horrified, I wondered where I would have stood during those times, with the upbringing that these people had had. Would I have been one of the brave, courageous ones? For indeed as well as those who were prejudiced, there were those who were extraordinarily brave. 

Obviously war questions one? It did so for Tom, Alistair, Hilda and Mary. Each answers in their own way in their own time. War mars and scars them all. Of course it changes them. For those alive at the end I wonder how they were able to go on in hope. I loved Mary, with her strong spirit - her outreach to children and her fidelity to them. Hilda her friend, so flighty and so brave too. I was surprised by her contribution and admiring of it too. Alistair - he enabled us to see the war through the eyes of a soldier and officer. Life on Malta was no picnic, except for a magical jar of blackberry jam. What a hard life though, the moments of comradeship and honesty though shining through.

Can I say I enjoyed this book? No I did not! It is a book rather that informed me, questioned me and had me again admiring and feeling for those caught up in a strange war. War - such a waste of human life. Such struggle for each individual. So while I can't say I enjoyed it, I appreciated it. What a journey!

Below Chris Cleave tells us about his book in just over two minutes!

Chris Cleave is married with three children and lives in Surrey, England.
Find him:
Twitter: @chriscleave

Everyone Brave is Forgiven is out now in UK, Ireland, Australia, NZ, SA and India. Out May 3 in USA and Canada.


  1. I love your honesty at the end. I was shocked by that but you kept it real.

    1. Stefanie, this was one that I guess can be enjoyed at many levels as the writing is excellent. However the way war is portrayed I just didn't enjoy. How can you enjoy something like it! But these books are so necessary - lest we forget the tremendous sacrifice these people made.

  2. I appreciate books like this - that are hard to read but so important.

    1. Totally agree Nise, we need to read them to remind us of what war is like.

  3. I love books from this time period Kathryn, great review!

    1. Yes and so many books written in this time period Debbie.

  4. War is dreadful but sometimes the stories of those who live through it can be powerful. I had set another true war story in my Audible wish list this week, 365. Now I have added this also.

  5. A Drop in the Ocean sounds good.


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