Friday, April 8, 2016

Chris Cleave's "Everyone Brave Is Forgiven"

My very first Chris Cleave novel, though definitely not my last. This author has a couple books that have been on my TBR list for ages. Despite the fact that a few friends have told me I HAVE to read Little Bee, it wasn't until I read the description for Everyone Brave Is Forgiven that I knew it was time to try this author out and request the ARC from Netgalley

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.

If you have been reading my reviews for awhile you know that I love historical fiction books that are set in and around WWII in Europe. So this seemed like the perfect novel for me to get to know the writings of Chris Cleave. I was slightly weary since there was the aspect of the love triangle. I am not a fan of romance novels and was worried that this book would solely focus on that aspect, but I was not disappointed!

Told from alternating points of views, this story is primarily set in London during the start of WWII. I liked that the story was told primarily through dialog and the inner thoughts of the characters. For some reason my reading flow and the imagery in my mind run smoother when I am getting the point of view of the character(s) instead of a third person point of view. 

Cleave's writing is exquisite, and made me feel all the horrors of both life in the city during the bombings and the horrors on the battlefield during WWII. The scenes are graphic, haunting and will stay with you long after you have turned the page. 

The grammar used at times was hard for me to read. Being half African-American and the parent of a special needs child, repetitively reading the words "mongrel, nigger, and retard" during dialog like it was no big deal was hard for me.  I do understand that this was the accepted wordage used in that time. It made the story more real, but it did break my heart and make me a bit upset every time the words floated by on the page.

A mixed pace of slow and steady reading, the beginning seemed to move extremely slow paced for me. Not to the point were I was bored, but to the point were I was hoping that something exciting would happen soon. I am a very patient reader but there were times when I was a bit antsy for something more to happen.  

When the reading pace picks up you have to be alert. The dramatic turns seemed to happen in a fast paced, nonchalant way. Reading while I was in bed and tired made me stop and think "wait, did I read that right? Did I miss something?". I would have to go back and re-read parts. I recommend being fully awake when reading because there is a good chance that if you are sleepy you will miss something important! 

The ending was perfect, but not. Part of me wanted the cheesy, expected ending. I wanted to see what happened in an unrealistic way. However, Cleave was so thoughtful to end it the way he did. 

This is a story of love, friendships, and family during a horrific part of our world history. It takes you through feelings of angst, faith, dread, and hopefulness. Solid and detailed writing with some very clever humor written in. Even during the lighthearted scenes, there was always that gloomy feeling of being in the midst of a war looming in the background. Exactly how one would feel if they were in that situation of war and despair. Such masterfully written I felt like I was the characters at times. Wonderfully detailed scene description throughout. 

I am so thankful to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for allowing me to read the eARC. A 4 star read for me and I will definitely read other books by this author, sooner rather than later! Pre-order this novel now because you will want to start it the very day it is released, which is May 3, 2016. 

Happy Reading!  

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