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
May 2016 Indie Next List
“Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, from best-selling author Cleave, is storytelling at its finest. Ranging from the decimated streets of London after the Nazi blitz in WWII to the barren island of Malta under siege, Cleave's mastery is to introduce readers to characters in the midst of chaos who bring humanity to the sordid landscape of war. A book that will leave you both laughing and crying on the same page, Everyone Brave Is Forgiven reminds readers about the power of the novel in telling the fascinating stories of everyday people living in extraordinary times.”
— Casey Protti (E), Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
The instant New York Times bestseller from Chris Cleave—the unforgettable novel about three lives entangled during World War II, told “with dazzling prose, sharp English wit, and compassion…a powerful portrait of war’s effects on those who fight and those left behind” (People, Book of the Week).
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.
About the Author
Chris Cleave is the author of Everyone Brave is Forgiven, Gold, Incendiary, and the #1 New York Times bestseller Little Bee. He lives with his wife and three children in London, England. Visit him at ChrisCleave.com or on Twitter @ChrisCleave.