We Must Be Brave

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

Today’s featured book is We Must be Brave by Frances Liardet and I would like to thank both NetGalley and HarperCollins Publishers Australia (the publisher) for providing me with this free e-book in exchange for an honest review. Because my life has been crazy lately and I was reading it on a computer it took me about a month to finish it (however in that time, I really only spent three days reading it and found it quite relaxing).

So what is this book about?
This book is a work of historical fiction. It follows Ellen Parr through her childhood, as an adult during World War II and as an active community member in the 1970s. It is a book about friendship and family and how much they mean when life is falling apart. (And is more interesting than my description makes it sound.)

What I liked . . .
Historical fiction – although I’ve been better this year, I still don’t read enough of it
The Letters in Part II – I love letters and I don’t read enough of them so I loved the letters that were in the middle of this book
The Emotional Impact – given the settings and theme if I hadn’t been emotionally impacted, that would have been a concern
The Cover – my photo doesn’t do justice

What I didn’t like . . .
I personally found it hard to get in to, but once I was immersed in the world I loved it. It’s worth pushing through the first few chapters if you are struggling.

My Rating   💭/2engagement   💭/2enjoyment
Star Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5/5
This book was a cosy autumn read. I loved reading about family and friendship set in a world I’d love to go visit. If you like historical fiction or British settings, track down a copy of this book (it’s been out for a few months, I’ve just taken forever to read it). Hope you find it as enjoyable as I did.
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We Must Be Brave is a tender and poignant tale of an Englishwoman named Ellen Parr and her experiences through World War II and the profound effect that a little girl named Pamela has on Ellen’s life when Ellen finds this young girl unaccompanied on a bus of evacuees. Ellen grows to love Pamela as her own child and the novel explores their everyday life and how their subsequent separation affects them both deeply for decades to come after the war. 

We Must Be Brave is not a fast-paced book and it is not heavily focused on the war but it is a celebration of enduring parental love and human connections. Frances Liardet’s writing is beautiful, whimsical and quite descriptive and evokes a range of emotions from love, despair, hope, sorrow and joy. Whilst I found the first quarter of the novel to be almost too slow - initially struggling to connect with any of the characters, I’m glad I persevered a little more as the story shifts focus to Ellen’s backstory from her childhood growing up to her young adult life as she tries to rise above her family’s fall from grace. This would have to be my favourite part of the novel, I became quite invested as I was able to really connect with Ellen, empathise with her struggles and appreciate the beauty of human kindness. We Must Be Brave is not one of those novels where I felt compelled to read it cover to cover as it travels at a slower pace, it is a story to savour and reflect on for it tears at your heartstrings and reminds you about the astonishing power of love in all its different shapes and forms and particularly the special bond between a mother and child. I enjoyed the long progression in time as the reader is drawn into an intimate and emotional connection with Ellen over the years and we are reminded that in spite of hardships, sorrow and tragedy life can still go on with the support of the people who love us and those we love.

Overall I enjoyed this read and I would recommend We Must Be Brave to those who enjoy historical fiction and who are interested in reading about the joys of the human spirit. Thank you to NetGalley, HarperCollins Australia for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.
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This story follows the life of Ellen Parr who to her surprise finds a sleepy child who becomes separated from her mother and left alone on a bus during a bumbled evacuation during a bomb raid.

This book moved at too slow a pace for me and didn’t hold enough excitement being quite a sombre story.  I do believe they'll be many other readers that will enjoy this story and the style of writing. 

I did like the plot and although it appeared to be a world world II story (situated near South Hampton in the UK),  I thought it was only in the barest of ways.

Thank you NetGalley for the copy in return for an honest opinion.
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This novel was just divine. Such a beautifully moving study on love, compassion, and courage. It examines the different ways in which people can make an impact on the lives of others and explores the many different types of love that can exist. This novel covers a large period of time, it’s quiet and literary, character driven for most of the way; I just adored every single page.

“Do you know why I’m not frightened of the cold? Because I know about it. How you can let it sink right into your bones, and it won’t damage you at all. I know how to suck on a pebble to keep hunger pangs away. You have to do that, you know, if you’ve just given a child your own food. The pain’s excruciating otherwise. And I can carry her, further than anyone. I can walk twenty miles with nothing inside me but the skin of a baked potato. You say I’ve got no idea about war, and shelling. Well, you’ve got no idea what I can endure for her sake.”

We Must Be Brave is as much of a community story as it is Ellen's. When the story opens, the village of Upton is in the midst of helping evacuees from Southampton, whose homes have been bombed in German air raids. Ellen, newly married to an older man whom she adores and who in turn adores her, is comfortably upper class, childless by choice, and running the local mill with her husband. In the midst of assisting the evacuees, she comes upon a small child, only about four years of age, sleeping alone on a bus, seemingly belonging to no one. She takes her home for the night, along with several other evacuees, who they are providing emergency shelter for. Ellen and her husband are already fostering three young boys from London as part of the children evacuation scheme. Over the next few days, it becomes apparent that the little girl, Pamela, is effectively an orphan, and she remains with Ellen and her husband, as their unofficial foster daughter. This is of course at the height of the war, so it didn't seem at all unusual that she remained there. Ellen was already fostering the three boys, so one more child left with them made perfect sense. As Ellen becomes attached to Pamela in ways she could not have foreseen, memories of her complicated relationship with her own mother throughout her childhood rise to the fore and we become privy to Ellen's riches to rags upbringing, which really made my heart ache. 

“I clamped my knees and teeth together, trying to keep it away from me. But it was in vain. I was in it up to my neck. She’d been clean and young and beautiful and now look at her. Look at us, living in dirt and dreck with Edward gone and a carpet on our bed. Daddy wasn’t mad. He was just a wastrel and coward who had taken a coward’s way out after robbing us. Left us in our coal dust and our filthy worn linen and our dry potatoes.”

There were several people throughout Ellen's childhood who helped her along the way, as poverty stricken as she was. Some of the time, Ellen was aware of this, but more often than not, help was offered discretely, with Ellen not even finding out until many years later. I really enjoyed these moments of discovery along the way for Ellen, whose gratitude was always very much in evidence. Ellen herself was a beautiful person, remarkably matter of fact about so many things, but she also had hidden depths, hurts she had buried down deep, a lot of things unresolved. Her marriage was unconventional, but it was filled with love and I appreciated the way the author explored this. 

“I might turn into a thousand things – who could tell? But I couldn’t live my life according to what I might be, or might want. I was myself, now. And he was here, now. A man who wouldn’t just hold me and kiss me, but a man I could say anything to and be understood, a man who could open the world to me with his heart and mind. How many women had that? Didn’t he realise what we could be, together?”

There were many loves in Ellen's life. Her mother, her brother, her husband; and then there was Lucy, the only person who spoke to Ellen after her plummet into poverty, where she was forced to attend the village school as a pauper and live in one of the partially condemned welfare houses. Lucy becomes more than Ellen's best friend, she is her other half. I loved the friendship between these two women, the highs and the lows, the foot in mouth moments that led to fights and the times they were perfectly in sync. This was friendship done right.

“This was what happened when you knew a woman for over forty years. You knew her thoughts, the way they ran, almost as well as you knew your own.”

And then there was Ellen's greatest love: Pamela, who is only with her for a little over three years, but her impact upon Ellen is lasting. This relationship was so beautiful, naturally evolving from two people being thrown together in turbulent times, and discovering that they were meant to be, except that they weren't. It was only ever temporary. I've never really given much thought, to how hard it must have been to host children during the war, particularly little ones who are in those formative years, bonding and then having to just give them back. The break between Ellen and Pamela was devastating, and it left its mark permanently on both of them. It takes a lot of courage to love someone you know you're going to lose. I haven't admired a character as much as Ellen for a very long time. She was beautifully crafted by the author.

“She hadn’t smiled all morning, and I realised I’d seen the last of her smiles the previous day, and I wouldn’t see another.”

We Must Be Brave is a deeply meaningful novel that sweeps through time with a gentle grace. It's perfect for lovers of literary historical fiction, who like their novels to dig deep into its characters, while still providing a thought provoking story. Another top read for the year.

Thanks is extended to HarperCollins Publishers Australia via NetGalley for providing me with a copy of We Must Be Brave for review.
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First off, I feel I should explain something. This is not a book towards which I would normally gravitate, and under other circumstances I wouldn't have considered reading it. However, I had seen it mentioned multiple times around social media, and I'd read/heard a few reviews in which the reviewers said it wasn't their usual cup of tea, but they'd loved it. So, when I saw it available for review on NetGalley, I elected to give it a go. I must say that I enjoyed the prose. It was easy reading, yet full of detail and nuance--in short, We Must Be Brave is a well-written book. So why have I only given it 3 stars? The problem is, the story and characters didn't grip me. Now, this has nothing to do with the author's writing style or ability; it's simply to do with me. I don't have a maternal bone in my body, and I truly struggled to understand Ellen's obsession with Pamela. To me, the child was irritating and rude, and I'd have been thrilled to find her real family and get her off my hands. The two sections of the story I liked best were the flashbacks to Ellen's teens, in the pre-Pamela days. Those I got into and really enjoyed, but I couldn't form any emotional attachment to the rest. Therefore, I can only give three stars. I do wish to stress, though, that this rating is solely because of my personal inability to engage with the story, and is no reflection on the quality of the writing. I am certain many other people out there will love this work; it just wasn't for me.
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Sent a copy to review by NetGalley but I was unable to download. I loved the cover of the book, it caught my attention instantly and the book has an amazing blurb I can’t wait to buy a copy.
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Thankyou to NetGalley, HarperCollins Australia, Fourth Estate and the author, Frances Liardet, for the opportunity to read a digital copy of We Must Be Brave in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.
What can I say? I am at a loss for words after reading this book. I could never give it the justice the book and the author deserve. This is a story that needs to be read. 
I thought it was well thought out and beautifully written. I was captivated by the descriptive nature of the scenes as the plot unfolded. I loved it so much, I brought the printed version as well
Definitely worth a read.
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