Sunday, February 24, 2019

We Must Be Brave

We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet
Penguin Random House: 2/26/19
eBook review copy; 464 pages
ISBN-13: 9780735218864 

We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet is a recommended novel which opens during WWII and spans decades.

In December 1940 during WWII, Ellen Parr finds a small child alone and asleep on the bus of evacuees from the bombings in Southampton, England. The bus arrived in village of Upton and Ellen, along with other villagers, is trying to help sort out the evacuees and find them places to stay. It seems that the child, who is later identified as Pamela, was inadvertently put on the bus without her mother, who is later found dead. Ellen is newly married to her older husband, Selwyn, owner of the local mill, and has always known that she does not want children, but Pamela captures her heart.

After a known aunt rejects caring for her niece, the authorities continue to search for relatives of the girl. Three years pass and Pamela becomes, for all intents and purposes, Ellen's daughter, so it is shocking when a relative does show up and suddenly Pamela is taken away. Ellen grieves and misses her deeply, but knows she must move on, be brave, with the help of Selwyn and her many friends in the village.

We Must Be Brave is fundamentally Ellen's life story. The novel begins in 1940, but later looks back at Ellen's traumatic childhood through to her marriage to Selwyn, before moving through the years in to the 1970's and finally to 2010. Through the years Ellen continued to miss/obsess about Pamela, even after she, later in life, helps another little girl named Penny. The devotion, obsession, of Ellen with Pamela seemed a bit too forced to me and reduced her to a caricature of a mother. She had the girl for three years, but surely knew that a relative would eventually be found after the war.

There are positives to the novel and fans of historical fiction will likely enjoy this one more than other readers. The pace to the narrative is a little slow. The writing can be beautiful, poetic, and descriptive, but also repetitious at times. The characters are portrayed as unique, quirky individuals, which helps overcome the tendency to have the characters also be a bit one-dimensional caricatures of a type of personality. Additionally, it has the potential to be an emotional novel for some readers, but, alas, I didn't shed a tear. I actually had a higher rating in mind after the first two sections but then my opinion slowly began to slide downhill. (3.5 rounding down)

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.

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