​Everyone brave is forgiven by Chris Cleave

Everyone brave is forgiven  by Chris Cleave.jpg

It’s World War 2 and a small jar of home-made blackberry jam surprisingly remains intact in Alastair Heath’s kit as he moves from one battle site to another ending up in Malta. The German air assault on the island ensures a desperate lack of food for the British Army and the residents but the jam remains untouched. It was made by his best friend Tom who has died in the blitz of London. 

Tom was engaged to Mary North, a feisty upper class girl who signed up for military service immediately war was declared only to be assigned as a teacher of children who were not deemed suitable to be evacuated especially a black child who captures Mary’s heart. To her surprise, Mary loves teaching but is later transferred to ambulance driving with her friend Hilda. Mary is soon injured in a life threatening accident.

This novel provides an insight into daily life during the war – the devastation of constant bombings, the impact on families, age-old prejudices, loss of life, the constant inconstancy of waiting for letters and brief snatches of intimacy.  There are some melodramatic moments such as when Mary becomes addicted to morphine and Alastair is in danger of losing an arm. But these can be forgiven by the fine writing and the knowledge that this novel is based partly on the real experiences of Cleave’s grandparents.

- Rita