[719]: Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Everyone Brave is Forgiven
by Chris Cleave


I’ve read my fair share of World War II novels. And one thing that’s glaringly missing is the presence of coloured people in the story. For whatever reason, there just doesn’t seem to be a place in the story for them. Like they weren’t even around in that particular part of history. This is, of course, only based on the books I’ve read.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven, however, changed that perspective for me. Because this book dealt with a woman who, despite her family’s and friend’s wishes, defied odds to help an African American child who soon lost his only parent to the war. You could also say that this boy saved her in turn at some point in her life. Because in war, you grab on to the only family you could find.

But that’s only part of the story.

This also had an inconvenient romance, not only because the world was at war, but because our heroine was already practically engaged to another man when she met another. And considering she was setting him up for her best friend, the dynamics of their relationship was not only inconvenient, it was also complicated.

Mary North is a privileged daughter of an MP who decided to enlist soon after war was declared. The only job she could get was a teaching position. She wasn’t enthusiastic about it at first but soon realized that it was her niche. But it was a tumultuous time when the threat of a bombing was almost always imminent. When the order came down to relocate the schools to the country, her superiors thought it best for her to stay in the city. Leaving her jobless and feeling inept.

Then she met the head of school administrators to demand a job. Tom Shaw didn’t know what hit him. Mary was determined, headstrong and didn’t leave Tom any choice but to “make up a position” because she wasn’t taking no for an answer. She was responsible for the kids that were remaining that mostly had learning disabilities and coloured kids. So at the time when Hitler was terrorizing much of Europe, England was dealing with racism in their own backyard. Probably not as brutal as they did in America where lynching and separatists ruled the South but subtle or not, it was something that black people dealt with everywhere.

Among other things, this book is about the blitz bombings England suffered during WWII. The constant displacement of people, the lack of food, the deaths and in the midst of it all, the people’s attempts to find some normalcy through the horrors. It’s also about what life was like to the soldiers serving in Malta. When they dealt with practically the same lack of resources and the constant bombings. They find camaraderie, comfort, and compassion even towards their enemies. Because in war, everyone is a victim in one way or another.

Chris Cleave crafted a story that covers a wide range of topics. There was a romance loosely based on how his grandparents got together; there’s racism that affected children who lost their parents to the war. It’s an account of survival in any way shape or form; of not losing hope no matter how easy it would be to give in. And many times, I thought the characters would for sure succumed to the weight of their troubles. But no one gave up. The dialogues were light even if the circumstances were not. Cleave found a way to infuse humour even at moments when things were dire.

  • Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    I’ve been seeing this title around a lot and you’ve absolutely convinced me to pick it up. It sounds like a lovely, thoughtful novel and I love the sound of the characters and conflicts. Fantastic review, Joy–I’m adding this to my summer TBR at once!

  • Normally I struggle with WWII stories because they’re just so unrelentingly dark, but it sounds like Cleave found a way to bring some laughter and light to the time period without taking anything away from the seriousness of the topic. I haven’t read any WWII stories that feature PoC characters either, so it’s good to know that this one features one.

  • It’s funny because you’re so right – most books seem to skip over the coloured aspect. Even when I study world wars in history, there was literally a small paragraph in the whole textbook which included the roles of the colonised people and minorities. Which makes me sad. I am glad there is acknowledgment here.

  • Ah, I’m so glad you enjoyed this one. While I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, novels that deal with war somehow appeal to me. The factoring in of racism and people of colour is indeed rare in these types of books, and I thought the inclusion was so important. And I loved the dry British humour!

  • Glad to see you enjoyed this one Joy. It’s not my typical read, but you did your best to sell it to me!

  • wow another lovely review, it’s awesome that you went out of your way to find a book that dealt with a different part of the war. There isn’t much about that I noted myself, books that focus on this are hard to find. It is usually what you would expect.

  • This sounds really interesting. There are so many WWII books I want to read but have never gotten around to. Adding this one to the list…

  • I really love historical fiction, and this one sounds like one I’d enjoy reading. Definitely a change to see POC represented during this time period too–we need more books like this one! Great review 😀

  • I don’t read much historical fiction, but this does sound like an interesting book. So many threads to this story, war, racism, strong willed teacher, complicated romance. It seems like this book has all of it. Great review.

    Melanie @ Hot Listens & Rabid Reads

  • Sounds like a really strong addition to the genre!

  • I have not read any books from this era, but I do like the sound of this one. Thanks for sharing.

  • I do like the sound of this one. I do like books set during WWII and I like that this one is bit more diverse than you usually find. Great review!

  • Ohh, this book sounds pretty amazing. I’m so glad you liked it so much Joy 🙂 Thank you for sharing about it. <3 It sounds heartbreaking and awesome and the characters sounds lovely. Eee. But romance sounds a bit too complicated for me, haha 🙂 But I'm curious about the rest. <3

  • These are the types of books that I live for Joy. Multilayered, emotional and inspirational. I think the only other WWII novel that I’ve discovered with POC characters has been Michael Grant’s YA series. Just opening up a new tab to add this one and grab a copy soon. It sounds as though I’ll need the tissues. Brilliant review Joy, sucked me in again <3 <3

  • ChristinaBookAddict

    Fantastic review! I love this time period and I was really curious about this book. After reading your review, I will have to get a copy of this book from my library. I’m glad you liked this book!

  • RO

    Wow! This book sounds pretty amazing, and definitely worth reading! I really love that you read and share such a varied group of novels. Hugs…

  • shootingstarsmag

    When it comes to historical fiction, I tend to gravitate toward WWII books and this is one that I do really want to read. I’m glad it was a good read – and that it actually touched on racism, etc.

    -Lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.net

  • Karen

    I don’t think I’ve read anything form that era but I’m trying to branch out so I’m adding it to my list.

    For What It’s Worth

  • kindlemom1

    I love reading about this era and lately have been doing a lot of indexing of WWII records and there were a lot of African Americans who enlisted so it is strange that more isn’t said about them. This sounds really interesting and I think I would like it.

  • The few WWII books I have read actually were all very good. That era is especially interesting to me since my parents met and fell in love while he was serving in the army. Glad you enjoyed this one Joy!

  • I do like enjoy ww stories in a way, they can be sad, happy

  • I also love WWII stories. Thanks for the review, adding this one to my TBR list 🙂

  • My grandmother lived through both WW’s in England. Her stories were always riveting, from the bombings, to rationing, and the chaos she encountered. Scary times. Glad to hear you enjoyed this, Joy. 🙂