The Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is reading Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave for the February book selection.
It's 1939, and the world is at war. Within an hour of hostilities being declared in Britain, Mary, a headstrong young socialite, volunteers to serve. She is assigned to teach children who have been rejected by the countryside to which they were evacuated. It is in this role that Mary meets Tom, an education administrator in her school district.
Their professional relationship quickly becomes personal. But when Mary meets Alistair, Tom's best friend who has enlisted, the three are drawn into a love triangle that they must navigate while trying to survive an escalating war.
Everyone Brave is Forgiven is a stunning examination of what it means to love, lose and remain courageous.
Both Mary and Alistair sign up to be part of the war effort almost immediately after war is declared. What are their motivations for doing so? How does each of them serve? Why is Mary surprised by her assignment?
When Mary first begins spending time with Tom, she describes him as "Thoughtful. Interesting. Compassionate." (p. 41) What did you think of him? Are the two well suited for each other? Why, or why not?
In a letter, Mary writes, "I was brought up to believe that everyone brave is forgiven, but in wartime courage is cheap and clemency out of season." (p. 245) Why do you think Chris Cleave chose to take the title of his novel from this line? Does your interpretation of the title change when you read it in the full context of the quote? In what ways?
Early in the novel, while Mary is with Tom, she is "thinking how much she was enjoying the war." (p. 86) Why might Mary enjoy the war? What new freedoms are afforded to her in wartime?
After seeing the effects of one of the air raids, Mary "knew, now, why her father had not spoken of the last war, nor Alistair of this. It was hardly fair on the living." (p. 268) What does Mary see that leads her to have this insight? What effect does not speaking of his experiences in war have on Alistair?
Let us know what you think of Everyone Brave is Forgiven.
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