Cover Image: Braver

Braver

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Anyone who has ever struggled with anxiety and ocd or knows someone who does and the difficulties of fitting into society will gain from this book. Well written, profound and insightful. Could well become a must read book in its genre.
Was this review helpful?
Braver is a deeply touching read with such lovable and diverse characters and an absolutely beautiful story. I was quickly immersed in the lives of Virginia, Hazel, and Harry. Their stories and unlikely friendships are compelling and poignant. I loved getting a peek into their special world. Such a good read!!
Was this review helpful?
I loved this uplifting, emotional and profoundly moving book. Deborah Jenkins has created characters with great depth and authenticity. Hazel is a loner; she has always found life difficult and found it hard to 'get' other people. People have generally avoided her, and with a difficult past and a domineering mother, she has struggled through life. But things change when she meets Virginia, her local vicar, and some of the people who go to her church. Hazel finds herself unexpectedly welcomed into and swept up in community, something she's never had before.

Hazel is so believable as an awkward, lonely woman with OCD, with her obsessive habits and rituals that get her through the day. Her friendship with the others, especially young Harry, who lives with an alcoholic, neglectful mother and faces bullying at school, is well-drawn and heart-warming. When Virginia faces a false accusation of abuse, her community gather around her to support her, with Hazel and Harry swept up in the love and friendship offered by this diverse community. 

The author writes beautifully, I wanted to go back and read so many moments she'd captured in such great poetic prose. She has a knack of seeing deep into the human condition and taking the reader there with her - there are moments of recognition when you realise that she is articulating something that can't quite be articulated. This is a book full of heart, honesty, and ultimately, hope, and I enjoyed every minute.
Was this review helpful?
A wonderful read a book that drew me right in .The story the characters it was emotional moving put a smile non my face looking forward to more by this delightful author.#netgalley #fairlightbooks,
Was this review helpful?
‘It’s a drab day with a sky the colour of lead and the kind of spring chill that makes you sulk. Of course it is.’

I read Braver as a review copy, keeping an open mind as this is not a genre I would normally choose. Braver, however, has turned this around, demonstrating the power of a simple story involving seemingly unremarkable people. It’s told with a powerful intelligence and absolute conviction of people’s inner strengths and had me hooked from the start.

The story revolves around three ordinary individuals, for whom everyday life is compromised by traumatic events and lingering fears: Hazel’s acute anxiety, Harry’s home and school life, and Virginia’s struggles with her past and burdens of the present.
 
The characters are deftly crafted, evolving as the novel progresses from the roots of their differing pasts. Each is treated with empathy and respect, and without judgement, letting them speak for themselves.
Hazel’s anxiety is particularly well handled, especially considering such a complex range of difficulties. However, all the characters stand out as engaging and beautifully human individuals. 

Deborah Jenkins writes with a light touch, illuminating the story and characters through moments of brilliant imagery. Through her skill and elevated prose she roots the reader in the tender reality of the everyday. 

A study in humanity, Braver is an unadulterated joy to read.
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed this book more than I possibly imagined I would. As someone who attends a church each week, I just wasn’t sure how I’d feel reading about accusations of abuse within a church setting… I think the author wrote about this in a really sensitive way. 
One thing that I loved about the book is how well I believe it portrayed Christian community and how amazing it is that churches are full of such diverse people who dedicate much of their life serving each other! This came through so clearly in the book and I thought that was beautiful. 
However, I didn’t connect fully to the book because it felt like the faith aspect of church was swept under the carpet… I guess as it’s a fiction book for a wide audience the author may have decided that not speaking too much of faith was important. However, for me this really felt to be lacking in the book. 
In general, I enjoyed the story and the writing but didn’t connect to it as much as other people have.
Was this review helpful?
Hazel is a neurologically diverse young woman with anxiety and OCD, struggling to hold down her job as a teaching assistant before returning to her lonely flat each night to binge on chocolate and Netflix. Then one day she stumbles, literally, into Virginia, a local minister and one of her proteges, 15-year-old Harry, and her life begins to change. Slowly Hazel discovers that not everyone has the straightforward, happy life she imagines them to lead. 
Virginia, Harry and the other friends she gradually makes all have their own life challenges. With an alcoholic mother, the odds are stacked against Harry, and Virginia, in particular, must face her own demons when confronted with a dreadful charge against her.
What an inspiring and heart-warming story! The characters are the lynchpin of the narrative and you'll instantly warm to Hazel, Virginia and Harry, each all the more appealing for their flaws. The tension of Virginia and Harry's situations move the plot along at a perfect pace,
As the title suggest, the theme here is bravery. In a life already blighted by tragedy, Virginia must find the courage to pick herself up once more, while Harry needs to find the strength to stand up to his mother.
But it's Hazel you'll be cheering on most as she battles to be brave in a world that truly frightens her. 
The perfect read for fans of Eleanor Oliphant and Hope Nicely, this is a book that will make you laugh through your tears and leave you with a warm glow in your heart. I loved it.
Was this review helpful?
Braver is a heart-warming book about three very different neighbours who become unlikely friends. 

Each of these characters are dealing with problems alone and the story shows how their friendship helps them to cope. 

Hazel is a young teaching assistant who is struggles with anxiety and OCD and, held back by her childhood with an over-bearing mother, she is now trying to live independently. Harry is a teenager who is neglected by his alcoholic mother and is bullied at school. Virginia is the local church minister who, haunted by the tragic death of her son, just wants to help vulnerable young people in the community so that history  dosnt repeat itself. However, someone has made a complaint about her so she is not allowed contact with the very people that need her the most. 

This is the first novel i've read by the author and it was a lovely read. Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher  and the author for the ARC.
Was this review helpful?
Deborah Jenkins has written a moving story of a blossoming friendship between three flawed and hurting people. I found the main character, Hazel, very easy to identify with as she honestly described her struggles with loneliness and an overwhelming lack of confidence. Through her relationships with Harry, Virginia - who has her own difficulties to face - and others, Hazel's perceptions of herself are gently challenged.

The author has a real gift for taking the reader into the heart of the scene. Deft descriptions of the surroundings drew me in, and I found myself engrossed by the company of a wide range of characters whose intertwined lives create the backdrop to this story. Jenkins doesn't shy away from delving into more complex issues, but this was done with sensitivity and skill. Hoping very much to hear more from this author!
Was this review helpful?
I loved Braver, right from the start I was drawn into the lives of the three main characters:
Virginia a minister who is dealing with major grief and has been accused of a safeguarding issue with a youth she is supporting
Hazel a teaching assistant who suffers with anxiety and OCD
Harry who is being bullied at school and has an alcoholic mother.
One early morning a single incident throws their lives together and within all their personal difficulties and problems, friendship grows. This is a story about the power of community and how hope can be found within the messiness of life. A compelling read!
Was this review helpful?
I loved reading Braver. Right from the onset I was drawn into the storyline and gradually given glimpses into the lives of the characters, all very different and all facing their own very individual challenges. The main character Hazel is developed with empathy, I  was given a window into her thinking and decision making which was fascinating. The subjects tackled are difficult and complex, but the author handles them with sensitivity that draws you in. There are moments of humour that lightened but never belittled the story and the sharp descriptions give clarity and added depth. The pace was just right and keep me reading. Life’s messiness is portrayed in a way that shows how love and friendship can bring hope and healing and just how powerful community can be. Braver carries a thread of hope which is so needed in our lives today. I would highly recommend this book and look forward to more from the author.
Was this review helpful?
This book follows 3 very different people- Hazel, who has OCD/Anxiety & lives a very secluded life, Harry who is a teenage boy taking care of his mother while going to school and Virginia, a local minister who is recently accused of improper conduct with a student. It is a beautifully written book and I highly recommend!
Was this review helpful?
A heart-warming book about how you can change your life, and that of those around you, when you fight your fears and stand up for what is right. A book I’m sure I’ll come back to again and again!
Was this review helpful?
'Braver' is compelling reading right from the start, with its exploration of the impact of a misconduct accusation against a minister. Drawn in by precise, evocative prose, and intriguing, complex characters, I read it through in a day, wanting to know how it would turn out, and again a few days later, slower, in order to enjoy it.
Although Deborah's writing has a poetic beauty at times, and her depictions of the impact of grief and bullying, and of the struggle to deal with mental issues such as OCD, are descriptive and insightful, it is her finely-drawn, unusual characters and their struggles, who make the novel so powerful.  Virginia is a minister of a successful, inclusive church in outer London, whose passion to help the lonely, vulnerable and lost is threatened by the unexpected accusation. The impact spreads to affect a young lad, Harry, as he struggles against bullies and an appalling home. But it is Hazel, a young teaching assistant who is drawn into the situation, who is the most memorable character. Her struggles to deal with her difficulties (OCD, slight autism, mental issues) are told with calm precision in an empathetic but unsentimental voice, giving an insight into another, unknown, life – which is what the best fiction does.
The novel is threaded through with acute observations of the world and beautiful descriptions . I particularly loved the line "there's an eyelash of the moon as if God (if there is one) is having a lie-in". But one of Deborah's strengths is describing how it feels to be broken. There is absolute honesty here, with no evangelical sugar-coating and no easy answers. With its themes of grief, brokenness, bullying, fear and bravery, and the redemptive potential of friendship and community, I highly recommend this book.
Was this review helpful?
I've just finished Braver by Deborah Jenkins (a pre.
publication edition). Set in a busy community in
London, it features an autistic young woman, a
woman Vicar with a history, a socially
disadvantaged bullied teenager with a terrible
home background, and various other waifs and
strays. All of whom one comes to love and care
about quite quickly as their stories unfold and their
faith becomes apparent. Yet this is no sugary
Christian fiction (a genre I avoid). It's real life and
life-like characters, written in an engaging style
that drew me in and kept me hooked.
I was sad to finish it - one of those stories that
stays with you, comes alive, draws you in as if
you're a part of the story. Even though there's
some gardening in it (as an allegorical subplot) and
I think of gardening as outdoor housework!
I hope there's a sequel to come, Deborah Jenkins?
Because I really want to know what happens next
Was this review helpful?
The novel ‘Braver’ is like a luxury hot chocolate for the soul – something you want to keep drinking, and which warms your heart and nourishes you with hope.

Hazel is a minister with problems in the present, and a past Jenkins skilfully introduces in intriguing chunks at the right moments. Hazel is a Primary School TA, juggling a variety of challenges alone until she literally bumps into Hazel’s community. Harry is a troubled teen brilliantly portrayed and with a background that makes us all want to care for him, as Hazel does. The stories interact so seamlessly and effortlessly. 

Jenkins is a masterful storyteller AND an  ingenious creator of characters. I have read so many stories where one is sacrificed for the other; here both plot and characterisation are expertly handled making this a read I didn’t want to put down. When the final page appeared, I didn’t want to read it as I wanted to dwell with the characters for longer and not have to face the fact that I had finished this incredible read. I want more novels from Jenkins and I want more about these characters’ lives.

Jenkins writing itself is beautiful, with some striking turns of phrase that have you gasping with the sheer creativity of her imagination. What a stunning debut novel – go and buy it immediately!
Was this review helpful?
Review of ‘Braver’ by Deborah Jenkins

(ARC copy via Netgalley)

Hazel is a young woman with a lot of problems.  She is fearful of a world she doesn’t understand, a world full of people who don’t like her, and situations that will show up her inadequacies. She protects herself as best she can with chocolate and box sets and routines, and does her best to ignore the loneliness.

What she doesn’t realise is that other people are struggling just as much, in their own way, even the ones who seem so strong and confident.  Virginia and Harry and Jas and Foxy and others… all with issues from the past and problems in the present.

The author’s skill is shown by the easy, natural way in which these characters are introduced to us, and to Hazel.  There are no clumsy information dumps, just a weaving together of lives, of stories, into a community, a family, of people who are there for each other.

To hold together under the pressures that life throws at them sometimes needs courage - but we see what Hazel learns: that together, we can be braver.

Beautifully written, ‘Braver’ is realistic about the dark side of life, but brings hope into the darkness.  Jenkins does this with a deep understanding of people and how they interact with each other, as well as a wry and well informed view of how institutions like churches and schools actually work.  Or sometimes, don’t!

She also has a smooth flow of words and an often lyrical turn of phrase which add a poetic beauty to the narrative.  London, for instance, ‘throbs with life, its steady pulse invigorated by caffeine and the desire to arrive’ .  
Or the description of a bus ‘at the junction quivering with impatience’.

Overall, a gently powerful book which was both a joy and an encouragement to read.  Highly recommended.
Was this review helpful?
Ever since I first came across Deborah Jenkins's writing, I have basked in its elegant, pellucid style. I loved her novella, "The Evenness of Things" and I follow her blog, delighting in the beautiful descriptiveness of her writing. When I heard she was writing a novel, I could hardly wait to get my hands on it. I wasn't disappointed. "Braver" is wonderful. I have fallen in love with Virginia, Hazel and Harry and I didn't want their stories to end. Several times, I was on the edge of my seat, willing them to do the right thing or escape from a perilous situation. The author's use of language is stunning. One phrase in particular made me gasp with joy and read it four or five times until the words sank in. I wish I'd written it. "The Thames curls behind them, a fat ribbon dipped in glitter." So elegant, so pleasing, so beautiful. 

It's hard to weave faith into a narrative, Many try and fail, but this author has a light touch and has succeeded in writing about church, belief and community in a way which is never preachy or dull. This is the kind of book which will become an old friend, being reached down from its shelf, read and reread, recommended to friends until it is wrinkly and tea-stained, just as a good book should be. I loved it. Truly. And that this is a debut novel makes it all the more astounding. I recommend it to you, hand on heart. I was given an ARC copy but was under no obligation to provide a favourable review.
Was this review helpful?
Braver focuses on the stories of three individuals:
Hazel, a young woman who is fairly isolated, struggling with OCD and anxiety
Harry, a teenage boy with an alcoholic mother, also facing bullying at school
Virginia, a minister who has suffered tragic loss and who is accused of inappropriate behaviour with a minor
The three stories coincide in a way that testifies to the power of community and points to hope in the midst of life's challenges.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Each of the characters was likeable and well-painted, and the book pointed to hope in a way that was uplifting but realistic. I also appreciated the way Christianity is presented in a positive light without being at all preachy.
I'd highly recommend this book and I hope to read more from the author.
Was this review helpful?
This was absolutely delightful. The plot was well-paced and captivating from start to finish. The characters were well-developed and intriguing. I highly recommend this fun and quick read! Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the advanced copy of the book.
Was this review helpful?