Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave [in Library Journal]
Inspired by his grandparents’ love story, meticulously recorded in his grandfather’s extant letters (his grandmother’s replies were sunk), Chris Cleave’s latest feels like his gentlest – in spite of the backdrop of World War II.
At the novel’s core is privileged, headstrong Mary North, who signs up to serve England at noon, 45 minutes after war is declared at 11:15 on September 3, 1939. She’s hired as a schoolteacher in London, despite her lack of experience. She falls in love with two men – Tom, who is deemed socially inferior by her mother, and his roommate Alistair, whom she desperately tries to dismiss. Beyond her love life, Mary’s relationship with best friend Hilda serves as an intriguing barometer of her engagement with the events around her.
In addition to these four young people – each inspired and devastated by war in different ways – Cleave weaves in a fascinating supporting cast, including the omniscient family butler, Mary’s young student, and Alistair’s fellow officers on the front. Narrator Luke Thompson moves effortlessly among characters, voicing various genders, ages, and social stations with ease.