Thank You to Simon & Schuster for providing me with an advanced copy of Chris Cleave's latest novel, Everyone Brave is Forgiven, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT - Set in England during WW2, Everyone Brave is Forgiven, follows the lives of four young adults irreversibly changed by their experiences during the war. Alastair restores art at the Tate, but gives up his job to fight. His best friend, Tom, an education administrator, is kept off the battlefield as his profession is seen as vital to the home front. Upper class Mary, joins the war effort as a teacher and is assigned to teach the children who have been left in London; children who are mostly poor, disabled, or non-white. Mary's socialite friend, Hilda, volunteers for the war effort as an ambulance nurse, a dangerous job. In the middle of their war duties, a love triangle between Mary, Tom, and Alastair, leaves Hilda on the sidelines, creating a mounting tension between the foursome. With love and lives in peril, can anyone emerge undamaged?
LIKE- I was absolutely thrilled when Simon & Schuster approved me for an advanced copy of Everyone Brave is Forgiven. I loved Cleaves' other novels and I'm a huge fan. My expectations were sky-high. That out of the way....
Cleave has a knack for creating characters with huge flaws and impossible dilemmas. He also has a knack at writing unexpected story twists. I never quite know where his story is going to take me, but I can be sure, that it isn't going to be what I'm expecting. This held true in Everyone Brave is Forgiven. There were plenty of gut-punch moments. I cared about his characters, so when these moments came, I was in synch with the story and felt the emotions.
I liked the setting of WW2 England. I can't remember reading a story with such an emphasis on London during the war and on the people left in the city, especially the children. The imagery in the story is haunting, especially the very last scene.
DISLIKE- As much as I wanted to love this novel, I kept putting it down. It took me two weeks to read, with other books sandwiched in between. It simply failed to hold my interest.
After a few days of consideration, I think the reason that it didn't catch me, was the pacing and tone shifts. They were uneven. Many times, I found myself taking note at a sudden, unexpected change (different from Cleave's masterful twists), a change that felt out of the blue, one that didn't add up. I don't have specific examples, but this happened several times during my reading. I was very aware of it. It seemed like some of the sections were rough. Perhaps this is due to it being an advanced copy?
RECOMMEND- Maybe. Cleave is a fabulous writer and excellent storyteller, but this is not his strongest novel. If you're a fan, read Everyone Brave is Forgiven. If this is your first time picking up a Cleave novel, maybe start with a different one, like Little Bee.