Sunday, April 17, 2016

Everyone Brave is Forgiven

Title:  Everyone Brave is Forgiven
Author:  Chris Cleave
Publication Information:  Simon & Schuster. 2016. 432 pages.
ISBN:  1501124374 / 978-1501124372

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Was was declared at eleven-fifteen and Mary North signed up at noon."

Favorite Quote:  "Where are you going to take it [life] back to? This life hasn't worked out perfect, maybe I give you that, but it's got you and me in it. I don't see what you could change and still have us be. And I don't see it can be bad so long as we're here for each other."

September 1939 to June June 1942. World War II. London & Malta. Mary. Hilda. Tom. Alistair. Four young people involved in the war effort in different ways. Four young people whose lives are forever altered.

Mary North is from a wealthy family. She is expected to present in society and to marry well. She has different goals and signs up to help with the war effort. Hilda is Mary's friend. She looks forward to the parties and to a suitable marriage; the war changes her path.  Tom and Alistair are friends; they are both fighting in the war in their own way - one on the home front and one on the front lines.

At its heart, this book is a love story. As such, it has some sweet parts, some humorous parts, and some parts in which the war recedes far away. In this way, the book is very much a period piece about British society. The joy and exuberance of young people in love shines through especially at the beginning of the war when no one quite realizes what is to come. The reader does know what is to come, and reading the lightheartedness of these young people is quite disconcerting. As the book progresses, the war permeates the love story with some unexpected turning points; so, be prepared.

Two stories of friendship parallel the love story in this book. Mary and Hilda at times seems to have a love-hate relationship, as best friends sometimes will. Hilda's friendship and what happens to her becomes a background for Mary's story; I would have loved to know more about Hilda's story. Tom and Alistair sometimes seem as two sides to the same person. Their story of their friendship is not really explored, but it serves as a solid foundation for their other relationships.

Interestingly, the story that for me surpasses the others in this book is the story of race relations in England at the time. The prejudices against people of color come up over and over again. This aspect of the story centers on Zachary, a young boy Mary meets as one of her first students. Through Zachary, the reader sees the racism that exists and the actions Zachary's family takes to protect themselves against that racism. It is sad to see that even in a war against a common enemy, the divisions that exist between us remain.

Underlying all the personal stories is the story of war. It is about survival and the things we hold on to to survive. "When ... looked up, he was surprised to find the war. She had done it again, her trick of making it all disappear." From London, France, and Malta, the book shows the horrors of war and the decisions of survival and sacrifice. Those who start off light-hearted and amused at the beginning of the war sadly do not remain so.

This is the first Chris Cleave book I have read. He certainly weaves a visual story that places the reader in the middle of the picture. I can see why he has so many devoted fans.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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