Everyone Brave is Forgiven

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016. 432 pages. ***** Published April 2016 *****+

It's 1939 in London, war is declared at eleven-fifteen and eighteen-year-old socialite Mary North signs up to volunteer at noon. While envisioning life as a spy or, at least, an attache to a general's staff, Mary learns to accept her job as a schoolmistress. When the children are evacuated to the countryside, Mary finds her true calling in teaching those children who are not wanted by foster families and return to London amidst the bombing. One of those children, Zachary, whose father works in the minstrel show, captures Mary's heart and is pivotal to the story. The tale revolves around strong main characters, Mary, Tom, and Alistair. Tom is in love with Mary and is in charge of maintaining the schools.  Alistair is Tom's flatmate and has enlisted to do his part, fighting against the Germans and then protecting Malta. When Mary and her best friend, Hilda, drive an ambulance in London to treat and retrieve the wounded, the sights and sounds of war become real.

This haunting tale is influenced by Cleave's Grandfather and his service in World War II. Cleave has a gift for characterization as well as setting the stage for a moral/ethical dilemma. I read his books wondering what would I do in the same situation. I find myself affected by his stories long after I have read them and the most frustrating part about receiving an ARC is not having someone to discuss it with. This is one of those stories. I felt like I was in Malta, could hear the bombings in London, imagined the hunger of rationing food and the many sacrifices that are made during war times. This will be a great Book Club choice, many discussion points and is sure to be a best-seller.

I received an ecopy from NetGalley for a review.

Chris Cleave is the author of Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, Gold, and the #1 New York Times bestseller Little Bee. He lives with his wife and three children in Kingston-upon-Thames, England. Visit him at Chris Cleave or on Twitter @ChrisCleave.

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