Steve E. Clark reviews Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave... "beautifully written and worth the read"
When the war begins she volunteers for duty, thinking she’ll get something exciting and instead is assigned to teach nine year old children. This job is quickly over when most of the children are evacuated to the countryside in fear of German bombs. Mary’s headmistress also is not impressed with Mary’s disciplinary skills.
However, a few children are returned to London because no one in the countryside was willing to “adopt” them. These include a black child named Zachary, and a couple of what we would today call, “children with special needs,” although Britain in 1939 was not politically correct and the kids were labeled “retards.” Zachary is called much worse and nobody in the English countryside wanted a black kid. Mary goes to Tom Shaw, the headmaster of the now empty school, and begs him for a job. Nerdish, poor, and shy Tom does not realize that Mary finds him attractive. He sees no point to opening the school again, but Mary persists. Eventually he gives in and reassigns the entire school now numbering seven pupils to Mary, although she has little qualifications to teach.
Over the next few months Tom and Mary fall in love, though it’s Mary pushing the relationship. Tom’s best friend, Alistair has volunteered for the royal artillery. When he gets his first leave after evacuating France through Dunkirk Mary comes up with a happy idea of setting up Alistair with her best friend Hilda. The four plan a double date. Hilda is thrilled at the chance to meet a dashing hero.