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January book club - Everyone Brave is Forgiven

(82 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 21-Dec-16 14:49:27

Looking ahead slightly (but hopefully copies of the above winging their way to our winners shortly)...

Our January book club choice is Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave (more details here). If you got a free copy please make sure you leave your comments and questions on this thread by the end of January. If you didn't win a copy this time but are reading it anyway, do feel free to join the discussion and add any questions for Chris.

Oldbat1 Sat 24-Dec-16 17:34:50

Looks like a good read.

matson Thu 05-Jan-17 14:24:47

Thank you I received a copy today .

Marion6 Thu 05-Jan-17 14:34:12

It's just arrived. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Happygran65 Thu 05-Jan-17 19:30:41

I received a copy this afternoon. Thank you very much, I shall enjoy reading it.

Gagagran Thu 05-Jan-17 19:32:40

Postman brought me a copy today too. Looks as if it will be a good read. Thank you GN - a real treat to get a brand new book.

janiceanne Thu 05-Jan-17 21:35:19

Thank you. I received a copy of the book today. Looks like an interesting read. Looking forward to making a start on it.

mumofmadboys Thu 05-Jan-17 23:56:09

Thanks very much. One arrived for me this afternoon too.

rocketstop Fri 06-Jan-17 10:27:06

Thank you, the book arrived today and I am looking forward to starting it !

Purpledaffodil Fri 06-Jan-17 10:40:26

Just opened parcel. Thank you GN. Lovely displacement activity on a frosty day. smile

merlotgran Fri 06-Jan-17 12:11:09

Book has just arrived. Many thanks.

Afternoon by the fire awaits!

LadyGracie Fri 06-Jan-17 12:38:21

I still can't understand how to win a book

gillyknits Fri 06-Jan-17 13:24:29

My copy arrived today and I can't wait to read it. Thank you!

ginnie Fri 06-Jan-17 16:44:15

My copy arrived yesterday. I can't wait to start reading it! Thank you.

Swanny Sun 08-Jan-17 21:34:27

I too received a copy during the week, thank you. I read a few pages yesterday and about 300 today! Had to put it to one side as I don't want to get to the end yet ...

jacksmum Sun 08-Jan-17 21:46:56

Hi i have recently joined "gransnet" and would like to join your book club please, how do i go about joining please?

Jalima Sun 08-Jan-17 21:51:09

jacksmum when you find out please let me know - I appear to have missed it again this month!! smile

Jalima Sun 08-Jan-17 21:53:58

LadyGracie I have belonged to GN for a while now and still haven't worked it out

It seems to be a well-kept secret

Apparently there wouldn't be one in December but there was Cartes Postale from Greece ...

Swanny Sun 08-Jan-17 22:11:55

Jalima LadyGracie watch for the post from Gransnet outlining the next month's book, complete the entry form with your GN details then keep your fingers crossed in case a copy drops through your letterbox! I believe it's a random draw so not everyone who applies will win a copy.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 09-Jan-17 09:57:29

Yes for those who asked...when we launch the book club giveaway it's usually midway through the month before. It goes on the home page and the books index and in the newsletter too so plenty of places to spot it.

Meanwhile v much looking forward to hearing your thoughts and questions on this book - hope you love it as much as I did

rocketstop Thu 12-Jan-17 17:59:33

Well, what to say about this book..
I have never read any of the author's books before (Sorry Chris !) I don't know why that is.However it made me be able to read with a completely open mind, not having any previous book to compare it with.
At first I found the brittle cut glass accents of Mary and Hilda and then Tom quite irritating and thought they would get on my nerves, but in fact, they were interweaved with such self deprecating humour that I grew to like not only the'Sound' of their voices, but the owners of the voices too.

I liked the dark humour particularly displayed in times of extreme hardship by Alistair and Simenson, the banter between them in times of inexplicable misery had as sparkle all of it's own and it is a credit to the author to be able to do this without it seeming crass.
I struggled a bit with the racism aspects, but I guess that is how it was then and would cause a stir but liked that Mary did as she wanted, defying convention.
Without wanting to giveaway too much of the story, as I'm aware other Gransnetters may not have finished it yet, I'm glad it ended as it did with an amount of uncertainty.I would like to ask Chris if he always had this ending in mind or if the story led him there ? I think it was more satisfying left as it was as life does not fit into neat little boxes where everyone lives happily ever after, I think the book would have lost something if it was such a tidy ending.
I know Chris, that you based it on real events and experiences and I think you did a good service to the memory of the people who served on Malta and the people who tried to be business as usual in England.
I really did enjoy it and think it would make a good film !
Thanks Chris for an intricate read .

matson Thu 12-Jan-17 19:17:26

Chris Cleave takes the stoism and stiff upper lip of the English people and peppers it with dark humour, sadness and love. A deeply compelling read and beautifully written.
The authors notes at the end where very helpful in understanding the reasons he wrote the novel. Thank you.

LadyGracie Thu 12-Jan-17 21:33:22

I'll look everyday for February's from now on! If I remember

Swanny Sat 14-Jan-17 16:00:03

I'm glad I waited a few days before reading the final chapters of the book, it helped me appreciate the changes in the characters during the time span of events.

I felt the main characters were depicted so well that I instantly knew them. The way they kept the stiff upper lip that had been cultivated since nursery days and bandied humour about to cover their deep insecurities, grief and inadequacies, yet were able to express compassion, was beautifully handled.

I hadn't previously thought about evacuation or otherwise of children who needed extra help at that time and felt thoroughly ashamed of myself. I admired the resilience of young Zachary and hoped he found a happy future.

I noticed a subtle change in the prose leading up to a calamity. Whether this was intentional or not I don't know but it did make me wonder if authors are affected by the planned demise of a character after they've put the meat on the plot outline.

Overall this was an enjoyable read with interesting characters and an unusual setting. A bit too wordy for me at times but the plot made me think, and I like that in a book.

Happygran65 Sun 15-Jan-17 20:35:01

This is the best book that I have read in a long time. I couldn't wait to get to the end so that I could find out what happened, but when i did it left me wanting to know more.

Throughout the book I felt that I understood how each of the characters were feeling and why they took the actions that they did. I also learnt a lot about certain aspects of the war of which I was unaware.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I recommend it all Gransnetters. Read this book and you will not be disappointed.

grandMattie Mon 16-Jan-17 11:45:12

I'm halfway through the book and loving it The difference between the classes is very interesting. what i did find most interesting was the attitudes of people - the upper and lower classes, the money and poor, and to the poor "niggers" - it was appalling!
I hope the rest of the book is as good and evocative as the beginning.
Thank you gransnet - I now have a new author to read [and to recommend to my book group!]

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 17-Jan-17 12:24:53

Delighted that you are enjoying it - I loved it. I was hooked from page one after I read the line "she left finishing school unfinished"

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 17-Jan-17 12:26:45

LadyGracie

I'll look everyday for February's from now on! If I remember

It's on the home page and will be in the newsletter tomorrow

Gagagran Tue 17-Jan-17 13:17:45

I loved this book too Cari and thought that the characters were so well drawn and very believable. I really cared what happened to them.

The banter between Tom and Mary and Alistair and Simenson was both funny and clever and they all came across as being really good company - had circumstances been different.

The flavour of the times and the difficulties in wartime were well described and I learnt a lot about what Malta had suffered. I knew it was the VC island but had no idea how bad it had been.

I would like to ask Chris Cleve if he has any thought of writing a sequel? The characters are too vibrant to be allowed only the one book!

Roxannediane Wed 18-Jan-17 10:38:05

Was thrilled to receive my copy - enjoying it so far, beautifully written.... trying not to read too fast to enjoy the great prose.

stormhorse Wed 18-Jan-17 11:58:45

agree with others that the racism was difficult to read but i suppose it was what things were like back in those days.

i must admit that it made me realise how lucky these recent generations are as except for a few unlucky ones we have never had to live through the horrific effects of a war and what it does to the people living at that time. this book made it obvious to me what it must have been like.

Grandmalove Wed 18-Jan-17 12:41:50

Started the book a week ago but finding it difficult to really get into it. Having read other comments I'll carry on and see if it starts to grab my interest more.

coffecup Wed 18-Jan-17 13:43:12

Was surprise at the amount of prejudice glad that doesn't happen these days, was a little hard to get into but worth
keeping going.

Ren14 Wed 18-Jan-17 14:07:41

My first post here. I live in the Wyoming (USA) Black Hills, grands live 800 miles away in Missouri <sigh> I and found this book in a used bookstore when visiting daughter in Washington State. Husband and I are leaving for our two weeks in Mexico and I'll take it, though it sounds hardly a beach read...I'm a writer and don't like to read in my genre, but this looks above and beyond my experience. I look forward to the discussion.
Cheers! And may peace prevail on Earth.

Bellanonna Wed 18-Jan-17 14:33:21

Ren14 I sometimes forget about the vast distances that can separate people in different states. I do hope you get to see the grandkids reasonably often. Enjoy Mexico. Enjoy your read. I'm not part of the reading group as I enjoy choosing my own books as and when.
My daughter and grandson were in Wyoming in the summer, DGS doesn't stop talking about Yellowstone and all the other places he has see. Lucky boy.
But above all, welcome to Gransnet!💐

Holidayenthusiast Wed 18-Jan-17 15:40:48

Everyone Brave is Forgiven begins when the Second World War is declared and takes place during the first few years of this conflict.

The story is set in London and Malta. It tells of the horrors of war but also of love and hope. The characters develop as they are forced to deal with the changes that war brings to their lives. It will make you laugh and cry.

If you enjoy historical fiction then I would recommend it!

Bicigran Wed 18-Jan-17 19:06:33

This was my first book club read.
I particularly enjoyed the character of Alastair. The reparte both in his letters and with the other characters in the book were amusing and interesting. I wondered if Mr. cleave has a collie sitting by him as he wrote to try out these conversations.

The stuffing of the cat with newspaper was weird but funny weird. What happened to the cat in the end? I could taste the jam when Simomson finally sucumbed.

The semi drowning of Mary with the water being used to put out fires was scary and not something I would have thought of. Well written.

I always like being introduced to new/different authors and would like to thank Mr. Cleave for permitting his book to be recorded in spoken work for those of us who are unable to read a print copy. It was beautifully read. I was actually holding my breath over the drowning part and feeling sun beaten and hungry on Malta.

The February book is not available to me but I shall look forward to reading the comments of everyone else.

Ren14 Wed 18-Jan-17 23:00:00

Thanks for the welcome, Bellanonna~Yes, Yellowstone is spectacular. Our National Parks' Jewel in the Crown, we call her.
I look forward to the discussions. Wyoming is isolated <understatement>, but a good place to write--and read.

gillyknits Thu 19-Jan-17 14:43:56

Some spoilers in this review!
A roller coaster of a book, part love story, part war novel.The main characters,Mary, Tom and Alistair are all affected by and involved in immense tragedy.
Mary is an aristocratic eighteen year old who questions the rigidity of the class system,especially in the turmoil of war.She immediately volunteers for the war effort, expecting excitement. She is so disappointed when she is given a job teaching children that have not been evacuated. Amongst these children is Zachery, a black boy, whom Mary takes under her wing.
I found the racism quite shocking but that was before any race relations act. Zachery' father is a minstrel. Black people were acceptable as entertainers but nothing else.Mary becomes quite outspoken about this injustice.
Mary's relationship with Tom, her boss,becomes her first romance. She is not totally sure that it really is love and when Alistair arrives she is attracted to him. Alistair is Tom's friend and completely different from him. He has joined up at the start of war and has been greatly affected by the fiasco at Dunkirk. He is then sent to Malta. The descriptions of the starvation and harsh conditions of the siege of Malta is so well described you can almost live it with him.
I hadn't read much about the siege and this book really shows how the island really deserved the awards it received for its brave action. It is ironic that Alistair injury occurs when he is trying to help someone and the lack of medical care compounds his injury. Just when you think his anguish is over, he is subjected to even more horrors.
I really enjoyed the humour in the dialogue, especially between Alistair and his fellow officers. In the darkest times they still managed to crack jokes.
I am glad that there wasn't a neatly wrapped up ending and that Mary and Alistair are left to work out their future and Zachary is looking to the future armed with the ability to read..
It is really worth looking at Chris Cleaves web site which explains so clearly his reason for writing this novel I would really recommend this book and will certainly try some of his other novels.

grannyactivist Sat 21-Jan-17 15:49:57

Drat - I just wrote a review and it's disappeared!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it. I liked both the writing style and the content - although the reminder of the casual racism of the time is fairly breathtaking and made me cringe.

granh1 Sun 22-Jan-17 16:04:39

I found this book a compulsive read and very moving. It followed the lives of two men; Alistair and Tom; and two women, Mary and Hilda, through the second World War. They come from different social backgrounds and have different attitudes to the war. Tom is a pacifist; Alistair joins the fight, first in France then in Malta. Mary is naïve and innocent and thinks the war will be fun and an opportunity to escape from her upper class home. She begins with teaching, and later becomes an ambulance driver. Death and destruction gradually encourage her to grow up. Her friend, Hilda is somewhat in Mary’s shadow, but is the stronger of the two.

I liked the descriptive prose and the humour, which is very witty and permeates through the book rather than being attributed to one person. There is an underling feeling that war is a terrible waste, not only for those who died but those left alive with their slow emotional detachment which is like a kind of slow death – liked sliced bread, a slice at a time. It comes as a shock every time a character you have got to know is killed. There is suspense too, when you are not sure whether a character will survive. You feel you can’t take a happy ending for granted.

A question Chris, did researching and writing the book help you to understand the past of your family, and do you feel you have helped to keep their memories alive?

grandMattie Tue 24-Jan-17 12:03:18

I thought the book quite charming - as well as a hard read.
It was interesting to learn how people lived during the blitz; I had know they lived for today only, but that really brought it home; I hadn't realised how badly treated the black children were, and how little schooling and attention they were given. It was scandalous!
once again, I had known that Malta had had a hard time [my father went there after the battle of El Alamein, on his way to Sicily and Italy] but not understood the extent of the blockades/siege had had.
As for the lovers, what a tale to tell - life was hard on young people, who had no experience of such things, of the hardships, the psychological damage caused by seeing and living through such things - they may have had "shell-shocked" uncles/father/brothers from WWI, but this affected them in person...
Thank you for introducing me to such a lyrical, painterly author.

Grandmalove Tue 24-Jan-17 14:47:40

Having taken a bit of time to get into the story I am now hooked. There have been some shocks and some surprises.
The treatment of the children remaining in the city was dreadful. I would like to ask Chris how he researched the conditions that those children found themselves in.

grannyactivist Tue 24-Jan-17 14:53:09

A question for Chris:
Have you been called upon to justify your characters using racist language in the book? I was discussing this with someone who thought that it was inappropriate use of such language, whereas I believe that it was a necessary and stark reminder of how people used to think. I think the racist vocabulary gives the book some verisimilitude.
(Always wanted to use that word - never had an opportunity before that I can remember! grin)

granofive Tue 24-Jan-17 15:02:25

So pleased to receive a copy and am looking forward to reading it, thanks Gransnet

Playermojo007 Tue 24-Jan-17 15:13:03

Firstly thank you for choosing me. smile
I am thoroughly enjoying it. I quickly slipped into the life of each character.
It has set my mind racing thinking of those poor young lads sent out to war and the children sent away from thier parents. Very well written. smile

Marion6 Tue 24-Jan-17 16:14:16

I think I've somehow deleted my first review but apologies in advance if two appear from me ! I am currently on page 301 of this book and am enjoying it so much I have already ordered another book by this author from Amazon. It is set in WW2 and the reader sees it from the perspective of people in London and those away fighting. There is dark humour, sadness, impressive bravery and I found myself really wanting to know how things worked out for the characters. The reader is reminded that evacuation was a very bad experience for some children and of the awful ignorance and racism which black people had to face at that time. There is also the reminder of how much the people of Malta suffered in WW2 and the effect which war can have on people's behaviour is seen in one scene with an injured German airman. The book is written in the language and language structures of the time ( at least, I presume it to be). I strongly recommend this book.

grandMattie Tue 24-Jan-17 17:38:28

One thing jarred - but the Chris is too young to remember. Yes, Alastair would have used aerogrammes, but since one paid for them before using them, he wouldn't have screwed them up at each attempt to write to Mary. It would have cost too much.

How did Chris find out about the poor black [and white, probably] children who slipped through every net [not that it seemed the authorities tried very hard to find them]?

silversurf Tue 24-Jan-17 18:57:17

Gave up after a few pages as I found it hard work, then I've had flu and a serious chest infection. I'll try again when I feel better.

MB1001 Wed 25-Jan-17 07:30:16

Thanks so much for my copy - fantastic read. Recommending it to everyone.

AnnieBetts1 Wed 25-Jan-17 10:40:50

Absolutely marvellous; this is one of those books which encourages the reader to look at things from so many different perspectives. It is dazzling, mesmerising and compulsive reading. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

daffers Wed 25-Jan-17 12:55:55

The last 2 books I’ve read have been very disappointing and I was loath to start this one. No need to worry though as right from the start it is interesting. Only half way through but have a hospital appointment tomorrow which is always a long wait so will pass the time getting further into this book. Chris Cleave is new to me but will definitely read his other books.

nannyto5 Wed 25-Jan-17 15:57:57

What a powerful story!
It took some while to deal with the style of the author, but I was still compelled to carry on reading somehow. And I'm so glad I did, because it's a magnificent portrayal of the events of the the early part of WW2.
The story ends just three months before I was even born; my parents didn't suffer the agony of being separated in the war (my dad made new Spitfires from parts of shot down aircraft at Rolls Royce) so very little was ever said about the war. Indeed my parents had three children during the war and life just carried on.
Chris's research of the events in London and Malta is very evident and he really brings alive the gruesome things which happened, and doesn't hold anything back in his portrayal of life at that time.
Whilst I found the style of writing difficult and couldn't understand the meaning of many 'big' words, my overall feeling for this book is one of overwhelming fondness- for the characters and their lives, portrayed with feeling, whilst still leaving the reader with much to ponder, for the scenes portrayed and for the time in which it takes place. The storyline of the children I found particularly moving and I'm certainly going to research more about them, about the hatred of the English for the black people. I have never considered this subject and certainly will study it more.
Thank you Chris for this story. I will search out more of your writing.

Jen54 Wed 25-Jan-17 17:15:12

I have received my copy thank you. Only read a couple of pages at the moment but looking forward to getting into the story properly.

shelaghh Wed 25-Jan-17 18:46:45

The Book has been chosen as " this month's choice" by JOHN KOSKI in the "YOU"
magazine supplement in "The Mail on Sunday Newspaper ".

I agree with reviewer- ELIZABETH BUCHAN who says = BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN,
FUNNY,GUT- WRENCHING AND ABOVE ALL , HONEST.

What else can i had !!

shelaghh Wed 25-Jan-17 18:47:56

correction-- add.

janiceanne Wed 25-Jan-17 22:24:11

I enjoyed the book very much - so well researched and constructed. A compelling and powerful novel. I would love to see it made into a film. Thank you gransnet for introducing us to a very clever writer - Chris Cleave.

JAS Thu 26-Jan-17 07:51:28

A fascinating book and will recommend it to my book club.
The humour was correct as anyone working in the services will agree with - the fire service, police and doctors all have this 'black' humour to enable them to cope with what is going on every day.
The letters brought back memories of how it used to be and I still have the bundle of letters from my husband while we were courting and he still has mine. I must reread them one day (or perhaps I shouldn't).
I enjoyed this book although a little too long for me and the book print a little too small but now I want to read the author's previous books to see how they compare in style.
Well done gransnet for selecting a really good read.

grandmac Thu 26-Jan-17 16:14:48

I have read another book by Chris Cleave (The Other Hand) which I enjoyed but found rather long. This one is the same, I really appreciate the back story of his family and their letters, especially as my own father was in Malta for a time during the war. All the main characters are well painted and likeable. And it is a really good story. It would make a great film. But it is very "wordy". This is only my opinion and I know many, many people will enjoy that aspect of what is a good read.

Purpledaffodil Thu 26-Jan-17 20:48:03

I found this book compelling reading. It was beautifully written and managed to shock me and yet make me laugh out loud. I do agree with others that it would make an excellent film. I could visualise parts very clearly; the troop carrying lorry approaching the unexploded bomb for example.
My parents met and married in WW11 and in a strange way, I felt closer to them and their life at this time.
A final point, the casual rascism was horrific, but I'm sure was prevalent at the time. The use of the "N word" shocked me, but then I remembered this being a colour description for brown shoe polish in the 1950s and wasn't it the name of a black dog in the film The Dam Busters? Happily now bowdlerised when the film is shown on TV.
All in all a great read and I shall look for the other books by this author.

nannygreencar Fri 27-Jan-17 08:27:29

Enjoyable and evocative of the period. A down to earth account of a period in war when people had to stand up and be counted. Humour and tragedy in equal measures. It examines the war's effects on complex family and personal relationships.

ginnie Fri 27-Jan-17 14:18:22

Chris Cleave is a very skilful writer. I found this book totally absorbing. It's funny, emotional and full of powerful metaphors. It shows the shocking reality of war and it's effects on its characters, both physically and psychologically. I can't wait to read his other novels!

mumofmadboys Fri 27-Jan-17 15:05:29

I have really enjoyed this novel. I must admit I don't really like the title! I'm not sure I would have picked it out in a bookshop. However the characters come to life and the story says a lot about life at that time including the racism and bullying. I too loved the line,' She left finishing school unfinished'! Thank you Gransnet for sending me the book and thanks to Chris for writing it. Are your other books historical novels as well or are some set in the present day?

boo2410 Fri 27-Jan-17 23:57:19

Never read a book by Chris Cleve but will definitely look out for more. I love stories set in wartime England and this one didn't disappoint. Loved all the characters, the book really pulled me into it and I was always wondering what was going to happen next, always the sign of a good book. There is hope, dread and humour from the characters within. An excellent read. Thank you for my copy.

tigger Sat 28-Jan-17 12:29:50

Not a happy read, so much tragedy but I suppose that was the way it was. I was surprised to learn about the extent of the racism, also the seige of Malta was a real eye opener even though I vaguely knew about it. Can't say it was an enjoyable read but very well written and kept me wanting to know more.

bets1e Sat 28-Jan-17 21:02:45

I had never read a book by Chris Cleave before and I wasn't disappointed. It drew me in and I was hooked by the characters and how their lives unfolded during the war. It was a compelling, powerful read which I thoroughly enjoyed. I highly recommend this book which is the best I've read in a long time. I shall make sure I read some more by this author.

otherwiseknownasGrandma Mon 30-Jan-17 10:28:34

The author's style is reminiscent of Sebastian Faulkes and Ian McEwan, both favourite authors of mine. I was aware of racism prevalent in the UK during war time and the horrific siege in Malta but the book really brought them alive for me. I loved the acerbic wit and dry humour displayed by all the characters, quintessentially British even in the darkest of times.

Thank you for my copy of this book. I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading more of his work.

sweetpea Tue 31-Jan-17 05:31:33

Regrettably, I have found this hard going. I have, therefore, put it to one side to revisit at a later date, sorry Chris. Doesn't help, I think, that I am not in the best frame of mind (daughters!).

However, thank you for the book Gransnet.

merlotgran Tue 31-Jan-17 10:48:50

I enjoyed this book although I found it took a while to feel comfortable with Chris Cleave's style of writing.

The abandonment of disabled and non-white children during the evacuation was an eye opener as we've been more used to heartwarming tales like 'Carrie's War' and 'Goodnight Mr. Tom.'

When I was a child I spent two years living in Malta during the early fifties so was made well aware of the siege which was recent history. My father was in the RAF serving in Gibraltar during that time so was fortunate to be spared that particular horror.

An enjoyable if not exactly cheering read. Thank you.

Dadima123 Tue 31-Jan-17 22:10:04

Thank you, Chris Cleave, for an amazing read!
I found it slow to begin with, but was soon fully engaged with the characters. I particularly admired Mary, who had a strength of character in spite of her upbringing and the social environment she grew up in.
Having been a teacher myself, I appreciated her empathy for her pupils.
I enjoyed the attention to detail, such as reference to use of Marion Richardson handwriting script at that time.
It was a learning curve, to read about the attitudes towards the vulnerable and the black peoples.
Clever use of wit and humour enabled the reader to stay with the author and cope with the devastating effects of war on individuals.
The siege of Malta and the London Blitz were dealt with great skill.
That second part of the book really is amazing - evocative, emotional and devastating on so many levels.
Thank you, Mr Cleave.
I understand that you've been inspired by your grandparents and aspects of the book are based on their experiences - but you did you have to carry out additional research, and how did you go about it?
I look forward to this dialogue...

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 01-Feb-17 15:01:56

Sending the questions over to Chris and will post the answers as soon as we can

Roxannediane Sat 04-Feb-17 15:07:13

How nice to have read a book with such amazing vocabulary and interesting characters. Some of my recent reads have been so inane, lacking colour in character and fabric ( I think I blame the kindle) and with unimaginative storylines.
This was totally the opposite, keeping me interested from the first chapter. I will certainly read more from Chris Cleave, nice to have found a new author with a convincing yet changing storyline.
Not what I would call a 'beach read', more of a ' curl up in a chair for the afternoon with an open fire and a pot of coffee' type book. I didn't want to stop reading once I started, and the rich vocabulary kept my imagination on track, feeling as if you were actually the re with the characters.
Would definitely recommend.

ChrisCleaveAuthor Tue 14-Feb-17 11:23:04

rocketstop

Well, what to say about this book..
I have never read any of the author's books before (Sorry Chris !) I don't know why that is.However it made me be able to read with a completely open mind, not having any previous book to compare it with.
At first I found the brittle cut glass accents of Mary and Hilda and then Tom quite irritating and thought they would get on my nerves, but in fact, they were interweaved with such self deprecating humour that I grew to like not only the'Sound' of their voices, but the owners of the voices too.

I liked the dark humour particularly displayed in times of extreme hardship by Alistair and Simenson, the banter between them in times of inexplicable misery had as sparkle all of it's own and it is a credit to the author to be able to do this without it seeming crass.
I struggled a bit with the racism aspects, but I guess that is how it was then and would cause a stir but liked that Mary did as she wanted, defying convention.
Without wanting to giveaway too much of the story, as I'm aware other Gransnetters may not have finished it yet, I'm glad it ended as it did with an amount of uncertainty.I would like to ask Chris if he always had this ending in mind or if the story led him there ? I think it was more satisfying left as it was as life does not fit into neat little boxes where everyone lives happily ever after, I think the book would have lost something if it was such a tidy ending.
I know Chris, that you based it on real events and experiences and I think you did a good service to the memory of the people who served on Malta and the people who tried to be business as usual in England.
I really did enjoy it and think it would make a good film !
Thanks Chris for an intricate read .

Great question. I tried the ending many different ways before I worked out the one I was happy with. The first attempts were always too neat or too moralistic. Disconnecting fate from morality is, I think, the challenge for a grown-up book about war. Finally, I came to the ending in a spirit of realism. By that stage I had done a lot of research about demobilisation, and about how couples picked up the relationships that had been interrupted for years. It often was just really ambiguous and complicated, because we tend to idealise an absent lover and build them up into more than they are: we are all more habitual storytellers than we realise.

ChrisCleaveAuthor Tue 14-Feb-17 11:25:16

Swanny

I'm glad I waited a few days before reading the final chapters of the book, it helped me appreciate the changes in the characters during the time span of events.

I felt the main characters were depicted so well that I instantly knew them. The way they kept the stiff upper lip that had been cultivated since nursery days and bandied humour about to cover their deep insecurities, grief and inadequacies, yet were able to express compassion, was beautifully handled.

I hadn't previously thought about evacuation or otherwise of children who needed extra help at that time and felt thoroughly ashamed of myself. I admired the resilience of young Zachary and hoped he found a happy future.

I noticed a subtle change in the prose leading up to a calamity. Whether this was intentional or not I don't know but it did make me wonder if authors are affected by the planned demise of a character after they've put the meat on the plot outline.

Overall this was an enjoyable read with interesting characters and an unusual setting. A bit too wordy for me at times but the plot made me think, and I like that in a book.

This is an insightful question. I do think authors are moved by the deaths of their characters, especially if it was never planned that they would die. When I began Everyone Brave I didn’t know who would make it through to the last page. I don’t over-plan my books, I just try to build characters that are sufficiently complex and engaging to carry the novel themselves. You spend a lot of time thinking yourself into their points-of-view. Sometimes the extra perspective you gain in that way becomes a valued aspect of your own character, especially if you’re writing someone quite different from yourself: a different gender, for example, or a different age. And therefore, when that character dies, it’s not just a figure of speech to say that a little bit of you dies with them. So yes, I get emotional when a character has to go. I try not to let it show in my writing, but I’m not surprised if a sensitive reader can detect a subtle shift.

ChrisCleaveAuthor Tue 14-Feb-17 11:26:38

Gagagran

I loved this book too Cari and thought that the characters were so well drawn and very believable. I really cared what happened to them.

The banter between Tom and Mary and Alistair and Simenson was both funny and clever and they all came across as being really good company - had circumstances been different.

The flavour of the times and the difficulties in wartime were well described and I learnt a lot about what Malta had suffered. I knew it was the VC island but had no idea how bad it had been.

I would like to ask Chris Cleve if he has any thought of writing a sequel? The characters are too vibrant to be allowed only the one book!

This is a kind thing to say – thank you. And yes, I do have a sequel planned. It’s called Everything Sad is Forgotten, and it takes the austere post-war years from 1948 to the early 1950s. Hilda became a favourite of mine, and she takes centre stage in the sequel. Mary plays second fiddle to her, for a change. I long to write this book, but I’m not going to rush into it, as it needs an enormous amount of research to do it justice. Everyone Brave took four years to research, and this new one will be at least that. In the meantime I’m working on several projects that will publish sooner.

ChrisCleaveAuthor Tue 14-Feb-17 11:27:09

Bicigran

This was my first book club read.
I particularly enjoyed the character of Alastair. The reparte both in his letters and with the other characters in the book were amusing and interesting. I wondered if Mr. cleave has a collie sitting by him as he wrote to try out these conversations.

The stuffing of the cat with newspaper was weird but funny weird. What happened to the cat in the end? I could taste the jam when Simomson finally sucumbed.

The semi drowning of Mary with the water being used to put out fires was scary and not something I would have thought of. Well written.

I always like being introduced to new/different authors and would like to thank Mr. Cleave for permitting his book to be recorded in spoken work for those of us who are unable to read a print copy. It was beautifully read. I was actually holding my breath over the drowning part and feeling sun beaten and hungry on Malta.

The February book is not available to me but I shall look forward to reading the comments of everyone else.

Delighted you enjoyed Alistair’s company as much as I did! I had fun writing the dialogue, and I will admit to doing the voices out loud to myself. I did have props: I put on a tie, and I found it useful to wave a pipe around for emphasis. Good times. Ah, and a good question. What did happen to the cat? That’s a loose end, I think. I remember Mary boxing up Caesar along with the rest of Tom’s things. So I should think he was sent to Tom’s parents. Goodness knows what his poor grieving parents would have done with a badly-stuffed cat. You could hardly display it, and you probably couldn’t bring yourself to throw it away either. It’s probably still in the box, in some attic in Surrey or Sussex. Future archaeologists will insist that it was used for magical or shamanistic purposes.

ChrisCleaveAuthor Tue 14-Feb-17 11:27:38

granh1

I found this book a compulsive read and very moving. It followed the lives of two men; Alistair and Tom; and two women, Mary and Hilda, through the second World War. They come from different social backgrounds and have different attitudes to the war. Tom is a pacifist; Alistair joins the fight, first in France then in Malta. Mary is naïve and innocent and thinks the war will be fun and an opportunity to escape from her upper class home. She begins with teaching, and later becomes an ambulance driver. Death and destruction gradually encourage her to grow up. Her friend, Hilda is somewhat in Mary’s shadow, but is the stronger of the two.

I liked the descriptive prose and the humour, which is very witty and permeates through the book rather than being attributed to one person. There is an underling feeling that war is a terrible waste, not only for those who died but those left alive with their slow emotional detachment which is like a kind of slow death – liked sliced bread, a slice at a time. It comes as a shock every time a character you have got to know is killed. There is suspense too, when you are not sure whether a character will survive. You feel you can’t take a happy ending for granted.

A question Chris, did researching and writing the book help you to understand the past of your family, and do you feel you have helped to keep their memories alive?

Thank you. Actually I found that it helped to keep me alive. I’d never really thought of myself as someone who had deep roots, someone who came from somewhere. I’d always felt like a ghost, with no strong connections. Researching my grandparents changed that. It gave me a sense of where I’m from. It also gave me even more respect for my parents. So, rather than keeping my grandparents’ memories alive, I found that their memories were stronger than mine. I keep coming back to the image of myself, before I wrote this book, as a ghost searching for its missing heart.

ChrisCleaveAuthor Tue 14-Feb-17 11:28:18

Grandmalove

Having taken a bit of time to get into the story I am now hooked. There have been some shocks and some surprises.
The treatment of the children remaining in the city was dreadful. I would like to ask Chris how he researched the conditions that those children found themselves in.

Another great question – thanks. I had some fantastic original sources regarding the state of London’s non-evacuated children. The best was a long report by the Fabian Society, written in 1941, and describing the successes and failures of the evacuation. It begins by saying that thousands of children were running wild in a London where all provision for them had been withdrawn. It lists “attendance officers, special officers, school nurses, clinic nurses, teachers, organisers, care committee workers” as the vital carers who were gone. “The whole educational system in the country of London suddenly disintegrated”, it says. And then it goes downhill from there. Needless to say, it was the poor and disadvantaged who were worst affected by the withdrawal of support services.

ChrisCleaveAuthor Tue 14-Feb-17 11:29:13

grannyactivist

A question for Chris:
Have you been called upon to justify your characters using racist language in the book? I was discussing this with someone who thought that it was inappropriate use of such language, whereas I believe that it was a necessary and stark reminder of how people used to think. I think the racist vocabulary gives the book some verisimilitude.
(Always wanted to use that word - never had an opportunity before that I can remember! grin)

Verisimilitude is a good words and thank you for using it in this context. Yes, I have – quite rightly – been asked to justify the novel’s use of the N-word. I’ve written about this at length here: wp.me/pggC5-RH but the edited version is as follows:
There are two reasons the novel uses racist vocabulary and they are both straightforward. The first is the duty to historical accuracy. Having discovered in my research for Everyone Brave is Forgiven that white people in the 1930s and 1940s used words like “nigger” casually and with abandon, it would have been a racially loaded act on my part to exonerate them by whitewashing their words. Rather, I prefer to use the language of the period with precision, since that is the best way to understand the mind set of the time. The novel’s use of the word “nigger” is reportage, not racism.
The second reason for using historically accurate vocabulary flows from the fact that any historical novel is really a commentary on the time in which the writer is living. I don’t believe that racism crawled away and died sometime between the 1940s and the present day. Rather, I think it is still a deep and divisive evil that continues to harm individual lives and shape national politics. By being upfront about the ubiquity of racism, and not seeking to soften its language or its acts, I hope to show its historic weight and its continuing influence on the way we live now. I write about racism and xenophobia without pulling any punches, because I think we need to talk about it now, and with urgency.

ChrisCleaveAuthor Tue 14-Feb-17 11:29:39

grandMattie

One thing jarred - but the Chris is too young to remember. Yes, Alastair would have used aerogrammes, but since one paid for them before using them, he wouldn't have screwed them up at each attempt to write to Mary. It would have cost too much.

How did Chris find out about the poor black [and white, probably] children who slipped through every net [not that it seemed the authorities tried very hard to find them]?

I’d really like to recommend a book called ‘Mother Country’ by the historian Stephen Bourne. In this and much of the rest of his work he explores the little-known history of Britain’s black community. This was my way in to further archival research into the experiences of black evacuees and those who remained in – or returned to – the city.

ChrisCleaveAuthor Tue 14-Feb-17 11:30:16

Dadima123

Thank you, Chris Cleave, for an amazing read!
I found it slow to begin with, but was soon fully engaged with the characters. I particularly admired Mary, who had a strength of character in spite of her upbringing and the social environment she grew up in.
Having been a teacher myself, I appreciated her empathy for her pupils.
I enjoyed the attention to detail, such as reference to use of Marion Richardson handwriting script at that time.
It was a learning curve, to read about the attitudes towards the vulnerable and the black peoples.
Clever use of wit and humour enabled the reader to stay with the author and cope with the devastating effects of war on individuals.
The siege of Malta and the London Blitz were dealt with great skill.
That second part of the book really is amazing - evocative, emotional and devastating on so many levels.
Thank you, Mr Cleave.
I understand that you've been inspired by your grandparents and aspects of the book are based on their experiences - but you did you have to carry out additional research, and how did you go about it?
I look forward to this dialogue...

And yes, I did a lot of research beyond my grandparents’ letters. I spent a long time on Malta, researching locations and interviewing people. I did months of archive work. I talked with as many living witnesses as I could. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Imperial War Museum were incredibly helpful. If you’re ever at a loose end on a rainy day, I can warmly recommend the IWM’s huge online audio, video and photo archive at www.iwm.org.uk/collections - I think it’s the best thing on the whole internet.

Thank you for your kind words, by the way! I’m moved by the kindness shown in this and all of the questions here. Thanks to everyone who read the book – I’m really glad you enjoyed it.

Swanny Fri 17-Feb-17 12:08:58

Thank you for your responses and I shall be looking out for the sequel with interest. Best wishes.