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.
I am a lover of World War II (as demented as that may sound). I live for the documentaries and movies that take place during that time period. And this book absolutely stole my heart.
We experience the war through several different points of view, and if I didn’t know that this was a work of fiction I could truly believe that this story, or something similar, took place in real life. This story is about real life- how one lives and responds to war, death, destruction, love, and rebuilding after it’s over.
Mary North is not your average London socialite- she wants to help with the war effort and does so through teaching children the countryside neglected. Tom Shaw, her supervisor and lover, is there to support her effort. The story through their everyday life. Alistair is an exceptional young man who befalls the misfortunes of war. Hilda is the typical socialite (and I don’t understand how Mary is friends with her) who just wants love, specifically the love of a man in a uniform- she is very superficial. Zachary is one of Mary’s students who suffers through the war, but also through the racism of 1940s London.
Each person is the glue and Everyone Brave is Forgiven wouldn’t be complete without them. This book isn’t about the big moments in one’s life, but the small moments that we don’t think about or celebrate. And don’t think to know the end. If this book is about everyday life, then the ending is representative of that.
The language Cleave uses is baroque and abundant. He clearly did the research to know how these characters spoke in the 1940s. It shows real thought and courage to get the story as accurate as possible.
I have never read a Chris Cleave book before, and this book certainly was not on my TBR list. I kind of stumbled upon it thanks to NetGalley and their little emails. And I am glad I did stumble upon it. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, but also to anyone who likes realistic stories about love, loss, and rebuilding.
Everyone Brave is Forgiven is beautifully gut-wrenching.
“It was a world one might still know, if everyone forgiven was brave.”
Rating: 5 out of 5
Disclaimer: Thank you Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for giving mr the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this book for free does not influence my opinion.