cover image Everyone Brave Is Forgiven

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven

Chris Cleave. Simon & Schuster, $26 (432p) ISBN 978-1-5011-2437-2

When war is declared in London in 1939, Mary rushes to the War Office to sign up. She is assigned to be a teacher (not the glamorous war job she’d pictured), but the children soon win her over, especially a child in her class named Zachary. When her class is evacuated to the country, Mary persuades Tom, her lover and a school administrator, to allow her to teach a small group of rejected children who are forced to remain. Meanwhile, Tom’s roommate, Alistair, volunteers for the army and must endure a horrifying retreat in France before assignment to the island of Malta, where he and his fellow soldiers receive little food and are constantly under fire. On leave between assignments, Alistair meets Mary and the two are instantly attracted to each other despite their loyalties to Tom. Slowly at first, they begin corresponding as the war plunges forward and the personal losses pile up. Real, engaging characters, based loosely on Cleave’s (Little Bee) own grandparents, come alive on the page. Insightful, stark, and heartbreaking, Cleave’s latest novel portrays the irrepressible hopefulness that can arise in the face of catastrophe. Agent: Jennifer Joel, ICM Partners. (May)