Friday 1 March 2019

Book Review: We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet (Historical Fiction)

Title: We Must Be Brave
Author: Frances Liardet
4th Estate Books

Publication Date: 7 February 2019
eBook - EPUB
Historical Fiction
ARC via NetGalley


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.

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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