Everyone Brave is Forgiven (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Don’t miss Chris Cleave’s brilliant new novel! 

Set during WWII, the story begins brash and full of youthful enthusiasm.  Mary skied down Mont-Chuoisi, escaped finishing school, and arrived in London going straight to the War Office where she volunteered to lend a hand during the hostilities.  Assuming she would be assigned to a General or made a spy; she was disappointed when Whitehall sent her to teach school, an occupation she undertook with much verve and originality to the dismay of the principal.  Mary came from a prestigious wealthy family; her father was inches away from becoming a member of the Cabinet.  The world was her oyster and she was determined not to miss any excitement the war might provide.

Of course, reality tends to intrude on our fantasy, there is real destruction, people suffer unbearable harm, and put in harm’s way people die.  As the war intensifies, Mary realizes the cost to those without her advantages and she matures.  

Alistair worked at the Tate, his roommate, Tom, was in charge of the schools.   Alistair joins up and is shocked by the brutality of war, first in France then in the siege of Malta.  Trying to do the right thing, he faced situations where good intentions led to tragedy.  Alistair goes from being a happy young man quick with quips and passionate about art to an officer doing his best for the men under his command.  He is compassionate with a strong sense of justice.

 Another memorable character is Zachary, one of Mary’s students, a black child who suffers racism and loss yet moves through life with a kind of cocky, grace.  What was amazing about this story is the way the characters start out so young, innocent and hopeful, how they are exposed to terrible situations, yet manage to hold a core of bravery and goodness despite it all. 

Cleave shows clearly how war is worse than people imagine; how wasteful, capricious and brutal it is.   Alistair is inspired by Cleave’s grandfather who survived the siege of Malta and squired around Randolph Churchill. 

I do not mean to convey that the story is unremittingly grim, it is not.  It is funny, touching, and endearing as well, so while parts of the story are necessarily somber; it is also a feel good book and very entertaining to read.

— Deon Stonehouse

May 2016 Indie Next List

“Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, from best-selling author Cleave, is storytelling at its finest. Ranging from the decimated streets of London after the Nazi blitz in WWII to the barren island of Malta under siege, Cleave's mastery is to introduce readers to characters in the midst of chaos who bring humanity to the sordid landscape of war. A book that will leave you both laughing and crying on the same page, Everyone Brave Is Forgiven reminds readers about the power of the novel in telling the fascinating stories of everyday people living in extraordinary times.”
— Casey Protti (E), Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA


The instant New York Times bestseller from Chris Cleave—the unforgettable novel about three lives entangled during World War II, told “with dazzling prose, sharp English wit, and compassion…a powerful portrait of war’s effects on those who fight and those left behind” (People, Book of the Week).

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. The three are drawn into a tragic love triangle and—as war escalates and bombs begin falling—further into a grim world of survival and desperation.

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.

About the Author

Chris Cleave is the author of Everyone Brave is Forgiven, Gold, Incendiary, and the #1 New York Times bestseller Little Bee. He lives with his wife and three children in London, England. Visit him at ChrisCleave.com or on Twitter @ChrisCleave.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781501124389
ISBN-10: 1501124382
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March 7th, 2017
Pages: 448
Language: English