I’m pretty excited to be reviewing my first book for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge sponsored by Passages to the Past. I agreed to read 10 books this year for the challenge. 1/10
We Must Be Brave is a beautifully told tale set in England at the height of WWII. It is the story of heartbreak and sadness but ultimately one of love, particularly the love one has for a child.
Because I was taught WWII history from an American perspective, it was only recently and primarily through historical fiction that I learned that massive numbers of children in England were evacuated to farmhouses throughout the countryside. The fathers were off fighting, the mothers left behind to work in the factories. These children often were abused, sometimes lost, and not always were reunited with their parents after the war was over. Only now are their stories being told en-masse. This is a fictionalized account of such a tale.
During the helter-skelter rush of evacuations, no one notices that a child has been left behind on the bus. Ellen discovers the child, Pamela, and takes her home to foster. There are trials and tribulations as Pamela grieves for the parents she has lost and troubles for Ellen, as well, as she deals with her own husband who doesn’t want the child. However, over time they fall into a routine and Ellen falls in love with the child. But, as fate would have it, the child’s father returns for his child. Ellen is heartbroken, of course.
The first half of the book is told in elaborate and beautiful detail. The facts regarding the war, the evacuations, the atmosphere surrounding war-time England and its effects on its people. It was devastating for all, those who fought overseas and those who persevered at home. Each time I read a book like this one, I learn something new and am given a new perspective. In this respect, We Must Be Brave did not disappoint.
The latter half of the book, after Pamela is removed from Ellen’s care, felt a bit rushed and disjointed. The details were scant and the imagery that was present in the first part was missing. It was as though the author had a vision for the beginning and knew where she wished it to end but wasn’t quite sure what to do with the middle. However, I enjoyed the beginning and loved the ending so much that I was able to somewhat overlook the minor shakiness sandwiched in between.
Admittedly this is not my favorite era to read about; I’m not sure we’re quite far enough removed to be objective enough to write historical fiction about this time period. But, if you enjoy WWII fiction, I think you will like We Must Be Brave and I know you will find the historical facts fascinating.
Thank you to #Edelweiss, @PGIPutnamBooks and the author for my advanced copy of @WeMustBeBrave