Everyone Brave Is Forgiven (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

When World War II breaks out, young socialite Mary North takes the unusual step of enlisting, though instead of going to the front, she's placed at a local area school, soon to be evacuated to the countryside. But Mary is not one to follow decorum, and her rule breaking and particular attention to Zachary, a disenfranchised black child, costs her the post. Meanwhile, roommates Tom Shaw and Alistair Heath have taken different paths. Alistair has enlisted for officer training while Tom stays behind to run a school district, and when he takes an interest in Mary, posts her at a city school for the children who were unable to be taken in by country villagers, including Zachary.The story is more than a classic love triangle set during wartime. It's about the obvious and sometimes unexpected casualties of war, and the persistence of class differences and racial injustice that were often exacerbated in war's name. And while Cleave makes sure not to romanticize World War II, he still brings to light the indomitable human spirit in the face of long odds in this devastating, but also devastatingly beautiful novel.

— Daniel Goldin



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