Everyone Brave Is Forgiven (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

“Everyone Brave is Forgiven” is set in London at the beginning of World War II. A novel, it tells the story of two young women and two young men swept into the fervor of England’s declaration of war, each drawn to “join up” like iron filings to a magnet.
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Who they are defines how they can serve: One man enlists and becomes an officer, while the other is deemed “too essential” to carry a rifle. One woman drives an ambulance; the other teaches the few odd children not sent to the countryside.

And then, the bombs come. They rain down on London. They make night terrifying and day a nightmare. Buildings fall. Bodies collect in morgues, x’s marked in grease paint on their foreheads. People who can leave for the countryside do; the rest of London shudders.

Alistair, the officer, commands a battery of artillerymen on the island of Malta. They are besieged, running out of ammunition and food. Letters, and some supplies, reach the men by the occasional small plane. The men shrink inside their clothes. Month after month, they succumb, one, then another.

The Blitz doesn’t go on forever, nor does the siege of Malta, but these four lives live on, forever changed. Cleave tells their stories in a beautifully crafted container of that time when London was bombed. I haven’t underlined as many passages and earmarked as many pages in a long, long time. Read “Everyone Brave is Forgiven,” and taste the language.

— From Book reviews: Fiction, non-fiction books examine war, character, choice

I’ve noticed this book on the BestSeller table throughout the past year, and decided that since author Chris Cleave will be at Steamboat’s Literary Sojourn this month, I better read it. I’m glad I did!

This historical novel set in London and Malta during WW II is inspired by the lives of author Chris Cleave’s grandparents. London is in turmoil in 1939, at the declaration of war. Some men enlist in the armed services, others stay behind. Some women help the war effort in their own way, while others deny their ability to become involved. This is the story of how war affects a soul, a spirit, relationships, attitudes, convictions. It appears that “war makes us better people, and then tries to kill us!” This is more than just a story! Cleave’s thoughtful insights on everyday life amidst death and war opened my eyes to the extraordinary stressors of war and how it affects the lives of ordinary people. It also left me to ponder the parallel “wars” which go on within our own society. 

-Recommended by Virgie

— From September Staff Picks for All Readers



The "insightful, stark, and heartbreaking" (Publishers Weekly, starred review) novel about three lives entangled during World War II from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Little Bee.

"Cleave's foray into historical fiction is both grand and intimate. The novel's ability to stay small and quiet against the raging tableau of war is what also makes it glorious....an absorbing account of survival, racism, classism, love, and pain, and the scars left by all of them...Cleave's prose is imbued with a Dickensian flair, deploying brilliant metaphors and crackling dialogue." --The New York Times Book Review

"With dazzling prose, sharp English wit, and compassion, Cleave paints a powerful portrait of war's effects on those who fight and those left behind." --People Book of the Week

"The London Blitz is cinematically re-imagined in a deeply moving new novel from Chris Cleave. As he did in Little Bee, he places forthright characters in impossible situations in Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, a story set during World War II." --Carol Memmott, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

"Magnificent and profoundly moving...This dazzling novel of World War II is full of unforgettable characters and the keen emotional insights that moved readers of Chris Cleave's Little Bee." --Shelf Awareness

"Real, engaging characters, based loosely on Cleave's own grandparents, come alive on the page. Insightful, stark, and heartbreaking, Cleave's latest novel portrays the irrepressible hopefulness that can arise in the face of catastrophe." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Among all the recent fictions about the war, Cleave's miniseries of a novel is a surprising standout, with irresistibly engaging characters." --Kirkus Reviews

"Beautifully written, funny, gut-wrenching, and, above all, honest." --The Daily Mail (UK)

"Intensely felt...Full of insight and memorably original phrasings." --Booklist

"Well crafted and compelling...nostalgic and bittersweet." --Library Journal

London, 1939.

The day war is declared, Mary North leaves finishing school unfinished, goes straight to the War Office, and signs up.

Tom Shaw decides to ignore the war--until he learns his roommate Alistair Heath has unexpectedly enlisted. Then the conflict can no longer be avoided.

Young, bright, and brave, Mary is certain she'd be a marvelous spy. When she is--bewilderingly--made a teacher, she finds herself defying prejudice to protect the children her country would rather forget.

Tom, meanwhile, finds that he will do anything for Mary.

And when Mary and Alistair meet, it is love, as well as war, that will test them in ways they could not have imagined, entangling three lives in violence and passion, friendship and deception, inexorably shaping their hopes and dreams.

Set in London during the years of 1939-1942, when citizens had slim hope of survival, much less victory; and on the strategic island of Malta, which was daily devastated by the Axis barrage, Everyone Brave is Forgiven features little-known history and a perfect wartime love story inspired by the real-life love letters between Chris Cleave's grandparents. This dazzling novel dares us to understand that, against the great theater of world events, it is the intimate losses, the small battles, the daily human triumphs that change us most.

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9781501124372
ISBN-10: 1501124374
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 3rd, 2016
Pages: 432
Language: English