“Everyone Brave Is Forgiven”, is a historical novel set in London and Malta during the Second World War. The story is inspired by the lives of the author’s grandparents: his grandfather served in Malta and his grandmother drove ambulances during the Blitz.
The novel follows four protagonists from the outbreak of the war to the summer of 1942.
Mary North, is a privileged daughter of an MP, after signing up for the war effort is assigned a teacher job. Through her job she meets, Tom Shaw, the head of the local education authority. A relationship blossoms between the two till Mary meets Alistair……
Alistair Heath, an art restorer and Tom’s best friend has enlisted for active duty and is deployed to Malta to defend the island. The siege of Malta is so sentimentality and skillfully described, it really pulls on our heartstrings…..it is hard not to be riveted all through this segment.
Finally we meet Hilda, Mary’s best friend. When she joins Mary’s on her second assignment as ambulance drivers attending to London’s victims we are in a sweeping epic of unforgettable players and emotionally charged scenes.
In alternate chapter each story is told as it progresses in time.
Of course the theme is, the War, and throughout the novel Mr. Cleave portrays the experience with skill and the catastrophic effects of the blitz. He takes the dull, drab realities of war, the continuous bombardment, the constant hunger, etc. and portraits the lives of the people on the siege vividly. We have scenes involving a bullying sergeant and the cruelties embittered by Maltese mob against a German soldier that are quite moving. On the other hand the characters dialogue lacks fluency and at time is insufferably slow. Their attempt at humour falls flat and seems to be off-key. Maybe the author wanted his characters to speak as they did in 1940 but today all this seems to be somewhat rigid….
“Everyone Brave Is Forgiven”, is terribly overwritten and a little melodramatic. But again these are my thoughts and should not affect readers that are contemplating to give this book a go, after all many have given it high marks. I am just a little sad I didn’t enjoy this book as much as my friends (others) did.