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.
But before anything can get rolling Alistair is sent out of the country to Malta where British forces are under siege by the Luftwaffe and Italian Air Forces. Over the course of the siege both girls write to Alistair but he only responds to Mary.
When the Blitz begins in September 1940, Londoners learn to spend their nights underground. When a bomb hits Mary’s school and Tom and all the children except Zachary are killed. With nothing better to occupy themselves Mary and Hilda volunteer to become ambulance drivers. Mary finds that although she misses Tom and feels guilty about falling for his best friend she cannot take her mind off Alistair.
Unfortunately, Mary is badly injured in a bombing raid and becomes addicted to morphine following her injury. Alistair loses an arm on Malta in an incredibly unfortunate accident when he is attempting to rescue a downed German pilot, being beaten to death by Maltese civilians. When he is ordered off the island there is a SNAFU in his orders and he is arrested in Gibraltar.
I won’t tell you how Cleave lands all these balls that he puts in the air. His writing is stunningly beautiful. If I have any complaint–the beauty of the writing sometimes bogs down the story and after a while you want to skip ahead to find out what happens instead of marveling at the gorgeous sentences. Cleave is fabulously successful and it’s easy to see why. For history buffs and romantics I give Everyone Brave is Forgiven a hearty recommendation.
Steve E. Clark is a best selling author as seen in the New York Times. He is author of the Kristen Kerry Novels Of Suspense series. You can pick up his first book Justice Is for the Lonely here, or ask for it at your local book store. Justice Is for the Deserving is coming out in Fall 2016.
You can learn more about Steve Clark here. Steve is also an attorney at Clark+Mitchell in Oklahoma City.