Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleeve is the ninth book in this month’s 12 in 12 Challenge. I am reading books about the two world wars and this novel is set in WW2. It is a story about a woman, Mary, and the people with whom she is involved.
Mary comes from a privileged background and when war is declared she volunteers to do war work and ends up as a teacher (with no qualifications or experience). When the children are evacuated from London she wants to continue in her new career and begs Tom, an education official, to allow her to teach the children who have not been evacuated. Tom and Mary fall in love and Mary continues to search out the children who are forgotten by the rest of society. Also involved in the story are Mary’s friend Harriet who works in ambulances and Tom’s flatmate Alistair who joins the army and ends up in Malta.
The author mainly follows Mary but there are also parts of the book following Alistair’s military service which is contrasted with Tom’s civilian life.
The book explores the themes of friendship, courage, isolation and exclusion by telling the story of four reasonably normal people caught up in the war. Some of the story is funny, some is gruesome and some is very sad. The story reflects a lot of the attitudes of the war years, especially to people of different ethnicities, but the author does not use the book as an opportunity to preach which possibly makes the passages more pointed.
This is an engrossing story. You don’t know, any more than the characters, who will survive or what will happen to them all. The situation in Malta is compared with the Blitz but the author also compares the experiences of people in different life situations.
This is a good novel. It is well written and includes lots of interesting background which never overshadows the individual stories of the characters. All the people seem very real, they are all flawed and some bad decisions are made on occasion. The book has some very sad moments but also shows that life, in all its variety, does continue whatever is going on around it.