BOOK REVIEW: Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Title: Everyone Brave is Forgiven
Author: Chris Cleave
Publication: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 432



SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)

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 by Chris Cleave is a powerful story of love and war, life and loss, triumph and tragedy. From page one, you’re drawn into life in England just before the relentless siege begins at the start of World War II. Children are sent away as a precaution; priceless art is stored deep in mine vaults; the country waits on edge for the inevitable and when it finally comes, no one is completely prepared.

The book jacket does a poor job of truly explaining Everyone Brave is Forgiven. Mary North is sarcastic, passionate, and stubborn. She longs to belong to a war that wants no part of her–except to see her go away. Tom loves Mary in spite of herself. Tom’s best friend Alistair loves Mary in spite of himself. As the war rages on, their lives become tangled, unable to be separated from each other. The lives that are lost will surprise you and the ones that somehow persevere will pinpoint the very essence of human nature. You’ll root for Zachary, the black boy society wants to forget but who rises above the bombs to make a name for himself. Hilda, Mary’s best friend, is the perfect antidote for Mary’s moroseness.

There’s very little to cheer about in this story. The dialogue is frequently sarcastic and always sharp. At times you’ll laugh and at others, you’ll wonder about the cynical nature of humankind. The “feel good” moments are few and the heartbreak all too frequent. Yet, this book is one worth reading–especially if you have a soft spot for World War II novels as I do. Chris Cleave displays all the elements of a dynamic writer. He’s won multiple awards for his work. He deserves one more for this one. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

Pick up your copy of Everyone Brave is Forgiven now on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. You can also look for it in your local book store. Make sure to add it to your To Reads list on Goodreads and leave feedback for the author when you are done.

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