Thursday, May 05, 2016

Book review: Chris Cleave's Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, plus giveaway

Loosely based on his grandparents’ WWII-era lives, Cleave’s (Gold, 2012; Little Bee, 2009) intensely felt new novel follows the soul-plumbing journeys of four young Londoners fighting their own personal battles as their world breaks apart.

They include aristocratic Mary North, who derives unexpected purpose from teaching city children after their more socially acceptable peers are evacuated to the countryside; her friend Hilda; Tom, Mary’s middle-class supervisor and lover; and his roommate, Alistair, a Royal Artillery officer.

Mary and Alistair’s mutual attraction complicates matters yet serves as a lifeline for them both. Just as transformative for Mary are her mentorship of an African American student, which almost everyone disapproves of, and her up-and-down relationship with Hilda, one shaped by their joint experiences and occasional jealousy.

Full of insight and memorably original phrasings, the story is leavened by sardonic humor, although the consistently high level of wit in the dialogue sometimes feels unrealistic. Cleave paints an emotion-filled portrait of a damaged city with its inequities amplified by war and of courageous individuals whose connections to one another make them stronger.

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven was published by Simon & Schuster in hardcover this week ($26, 432pp).  This review first appeared in Booklist's March 1st issue, and I covered it from an ARC provided by my editor.

Since then, the publisher has sent me a nice new hardcover copy, so I have an extra that I thought I'd give away to another blog reader.  Just fill out the form below if you're interested.  One entry per household, please; void where prohibited.  Deadline for entry Friday, March 13th.  I'll announce the winner here (and notify them) shortly thereafter.  Good luck!

Update:  The giveaway has ended.  Congratulations to Noreen!  Thanks to everyone who entered.


  1. I've got this on my Kindle so I did like to read your review. Thanks.

    1. Glad you have a copy. I'll be interested to hear what you think.

  2. London, world war, witty dialog, Chris Cleave's unique way of dissecting the psyche...what is not to like?

    1. I haven't read any of Cleave's other novels but know they're highly regarded. My only issue with this one was the dialogue - witty, yes, but rather overdone.