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January book club - Everyone Brave is Forgiven

(83 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.

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


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.