I don’t know why, but I have read a lot of books set during WWII and in England. True I like historical fiction, and true there are a lot of these books written (maybe someone in publishing can explain it to me? Likely because they sell. Because I’ll read them). I bet one of you knows why this particular period and place is so enthralling to this reader.
Anyway. Chris Cleave’s Everyone Brave is Forgiven is another entry into this genre, and a solid one at that. It explores the (albeit incomplete) breakdown of class and racial divisions in England as a consequence of the war. It follows Mary, a school teacher, in her love affairs and her quests (yes, plural) for social justice. There are scenes of dead bodies. And air raid shelters. And festering wounds. Also love and rain and mud and morphine.
I especially liked the pacing of the book – several chapters dedicated to a month, and it moves month by month through the first couple of years of the war. The effect (for me) was to bring to life the feeling of uncertainty and fear that must accompany these moments in history when one feels they are living through a chaotic and dangerous time (not that the contemporary reader would know anything about that experience).
It’s well written, if probably too neat in its conclusion (Yes, J.C., I know I use ‘neat’ too often to describe my frustration with endings).
It got solid 7’s and 7.5’s from everyone at book club. And that’s where I sit, too. If you find it in a bargain bin or a neighborhood book swap then on you go. Otherwise…