We Must Be Brave
**The publisher sent me a free advanced review copy of this book which I have reviewed with entirely my own words and opinions.
A woman; a war; a child that changed everything.
Spanning the sweep of the twentieth century, We Must Be Brave is a luminous and profoundly moving novel about the people we rescue and the ways in which they rescue us back.
She was fast asleep on the back seat of the bus. Curled up, thumb in mouth. Four, maybe five years old.
I turned around. The last few passengers were shuffling away from me down the aisle to the doors. ‘Whose is this child?’ I called.
Nobody looked back.
December, 1940. As German bombs fall on Southampton, the city’s residents flee to the surrounding villages. In Upton village, amid the chaos, newly-married Ellen Parr finds a girl sleeping, unclaimed at the back of an empty bus. Little Pamela, it seems, is entirely alone.
Ellen has always believed she does not want children, but when she takes Pamela into her home the child cracks open the past Ellen thought she had escaped and the future she and her husband Selwyn had dreamed for themselves. As the war rages on, love grows where it was least expected, surprising them all. But with the end of the fighting comes the realization that Pamela was never theirs to keep…
A story of courage and kindness, hardship and friendship, We Must be Brave explores the fierce love we feel for our children and the astonishing power of that love to endure.
Hardback and ebook published by Fourth Estate 7th February 2019.
The cover for this book is exquisite with such beautiful colours, foil embossing and details of the tree, characters and weathervane. I can imagine the final hardback copies will look stunning on shelves!
Initially I could clearly see that Ellen was a kind and resourceful woman, taking control of a situation and trying to do the right thing, you could see however that there was a lot of inner turmoil, a fighting of her feelings for Pamela, and a vulnerability that I think they both recognised in each other. Reading this developing relationship between Ellen and Pamela was a raw and moving experience; Ellen goes through all the relatable experiences of motherhood and how magical the tiny moments can be amongst the difficulties. During the flashback chapters to her earlier life, you learn so much about Ellen; shocking and unimaginable experiences, that peels down the layers of her stoicism and you start to really see what drives her and what has made her all she is.
The analysis of Ellen’s marriage with Selwyn, her bonds with the village characters of Upton, and how their journeys all transpire and intertwine was written with such heartfelt tenderness and intricate complexity that you feel the ghosts of these characters long after you have finished the final chapter. I felt a huge lump in my throat at the end chapters, which I felt ended so fittingly and was an uplifting finale to a moving story.
We Must Be Brave encapsulates, in both the title and the stories within the book, the wartime outlook, and how during terrifyingly uncertain times communities pulled together to support each other, with courage and kindness, to survive and to move forward. This seems a telling tale for modern times also, and lessons worth remembering.