Take A Peek Book Review: Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven



(via Goodreads)

From the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Little Bee, a spellbinding novel about three unforgettable individuals thrown together by war, love, and their search for belonging in the ever-changing landscape of WWII London.

It’s 1939 and Mary, a young socialite, is determined to shock her blueblood political family by volunteering for the war effort. She is assigned as a teacher to children who were evacuated from London and have been rejected by the countryside because they are infirm, mentally disabled, or—like Mary’s favorite student, Zachary—have colored skin.

Tom, an education administrator, is distraught when his best friend, Alastair, enlists. Alastair, an art restorer, has always seemed far removed from the violent life to which he has now condemned himself. But Tom finds distraction in Mary, first as her employer and then as their relationship quickly develops in the emotionally charged times. When Mary meets Alastair, the three are drawn into a tragic love triangle and—while war escalates and bombs begin falling around them—further into a new world unlike any they’ve ever known.

A sweeping epic with the kind of unforgettable characters, cultural insights, and indelible scenes that made Little Bee so incredible, Chris Cleave’s latest novel explores the disenfranchised, the bereaved, the elite, the embattled. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven is a heartbreakingly beautiful story of love, loss, and incredible courage.


My Thoughts:

I have such mixed feelings about this book. The story is grand and sweeping, encompassing the London air raids of World War II as well as the horrible conditions experienced by soldiers besieged on the island of Malta. In terms of setting and historical context, Everyone Brave Is Forgiven is powerful and hard-hitting, showing us the terror of the reality of war through the eyes of those attempting to live through it.

At the same time, the characters and the dialogue kept me at a distance throughout. The writing is so overdone, and there’s a jolly good, stiff upper lip, never say anything that isn’t a quip flavor to every line the characters speak. If I had to read one more sentence about what “one” did or didn’t do or feel, I might have pulled my hair out.

Overall, I found this a disappointing read. I will probably be in the minority on this one, as the book seems to be getting raves from all the big literary review sources. Sadly, the paths of the characters and the central love story didn’t have a ring of truth. The tragedies pile up, and there are scenes of raw destruction that are breathtakingly sad and shocking. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the characters’ lives, actions, or relationships real enough to feel a true sense of connection to their stories.


The details:

Title: Everyone Brave is Forgiven
Author: Chris Cleave
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: May 3, 2016
Length: 432 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

2 thoughts on “Take A Peek Book Review: Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

    • Is it mean to say I’m glad I’m not alone? 🙂 I considered DNFing a few times as well, but made myself stick it out. It’s too bad — there were some really moving parts, but like you, I just couldn’t connect to the characters at all.

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