Everyone Brave is Forgiven

“A superb novel that breathes fresh life into an often brutal scenario. Particularly astute at demonstrating how war seeps into the psyche and changes it, this is beautifully written, funny, gut-wrenching and, above all, honest.” – Daily Mail review

I hope you’ll enjoy Everyone Brave is Forgiven. Like all my work, it begins with a question and goes deep into human psychology, humor and emotion in search of an answer. This time my question is “What is true bravery?” and to explore it I’ve used the real life inspiration of my grandparents in WWII. Stoical and funny, my grandfather was besieged on the island of Malta and given the job of looking after Winston Churchill’s son. Bright and fiercely principled, my grandmother taught children in and around London during the Blitz. Their improbable and beautiful courtship through long-distance wartime mail was the reason I wrote this book.

When I write I just want to give you a place to escape completely, where you can be yourself for a while. I hope Everyone Brave gives you that deep, immersive experience and that you emerge from it feeling strong and well.

With thanks and all good wishes,
Chris Cleave

“His best book to date” Esquire, 10 best novels of 2016 

Guardian Literary Highlight of 2016

Washington Post 20 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2016

Everyone Brave is Forgiven is inspired by the story of my grandparents:

First editions are now available for pre-order in all countries:

45 thoughts on “Everyone Brave is Forgiven”

  1. I am in utter awe of your book “Everyone Brave is Forgiven”, and would like to extend my gratitude for this work. I was profoundly moved by the writing style, your choice of wording, and the depth and range of human psychology you managed to portray within the characters. Although I am a stranger to you, I feel so proud of you, in that the talent, sensitivity, skill, and dedication necessary to actualize this accomplishment must be God-given, though operated through, and by you.
    Congratulations, thank you, and I very much look forward to reading more.

  2. Hi Chris,
    As usual, I’m left in awe at your personality. You are such a beautiful human being. For you to spare time and reply your readers here enthralls me and I applaud you for that.

    I boast about you here in Nigeria, and I tell people that Chris Cleave is one author that takes his readers to a cliff and is the only authorized person to guide them down the cliff. Else, they’d have some bruises. Lol

    INCENDIARY, LITTLE BEE & GOLD were excellent books for me. Unputdownable so to say. I even almost pushed duties forward just to get done with each.

    I just finished ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE BY ANTHONY DOERR some minutes ago and it was set in WW2 like Everyone brave…. I enjoyed it.

    Hopefully, you’d deliver in this new born – EVERY ONE BRAVE is FORGIVEN. I always feed on the goodreads review and I think it’s having a good spot on the mind of readers.

    Keep on Sir,

  3. Hello Chris,
    I have read and enjoyed all your books immensely,and have just finished Everyone Brave is Forgiven.I have never felt compelled to thank an author before,but I want to thank you for taking me to another time and place.I feel a bit disorientated,a bit unsettled,but in a good way !
    I have a photo taken in 1915 of my paternal grandfather sitting on his mother’s knee,next to his father in his naval uniform,in Malta.That same year,on the 16th January,my maternal grandfather was born prematurely when his mother received a telegram to say her husband had been killed in action.My grandfather survived in a shoebox in the kitchen range.Both grandfathers were in the Army,and both died in the 50’s and 60’s,so I never knew them.
    My parents met in Malta in the 1960’s,mum in the Wrns,my father in the Navy,where they had a long love affair which as he was married,came to an end.It is hard to believe that only twenty years earlier there was such pain and hunger.I was born on the 16th January 1965,and mum met my wonderful stepfather (who was born in Gibraltar in 1940) in 1967.

    It’s the invisible thread that connects us to our past,isn’t it?I have an incredible urge to visit Malta,as I did not know as much as I do now,thanks to you Chris.Keep writing your amazing novels.I hope you love writing as much as I love reading!
    Very best wishes,Tracey Bourke

  4. Hello Chris,

    All of the us a the Hampshire Writers’ Society at the University of Winchester, UK,
    are looking forward to welcoming you to the 14 June Gala meeting, 7 for 7:30 pm and to listening to your description of how this gripping and inspiration book, Everyone Brave
    is Forgiven, came to be.

    Enjoy Vancouver. My birthplace.
    Chairman, Hampshire Writers’ Society

    1. Hello Barbara – thank you for the invitation to join you at the Hampshire Writers’ Society. I’m very much looking forward to the evening! See you then – and all good wishes in the meantime! CC

  5. I saw the ad for your lecture in Pittsburgh on Friday, unfornutely
    I will be out of town, but I have ordered your E book EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN. As a former history teacher, and especially of Ww2, I enjoy reading about this Great War. While aboard ship on a Med cruise on the U.S.S Hyman (DD-732) in 1954, we
    Pulled into MALTA for several days. It was a memorable experience and
    we fed a group of young people from a local orphanage in our mess hall.

    Your last name intrigues me because the word CLEAVE is one of the few
    words that has opposite meanings, i.e. “To join together” and “to tear apart.”

    1. Hi Bill, I enjoyed reading your comment – thank you! And thanks for reading Everyone Brave, too – I hope you’ll enjoy it. Do you by any chance have photos from your Malta visit in ’54? I’d be fascinated to see them. Thanks and all best – Chris

      PS Yes, I do like the family name. It has a certain built-in sense of adventure.

      1. I don’t have any pics of Malta,
        unfortunately. The only ones I took were
        In Gibralter, Naples (on a tour of Rome) where I remember the bus drive letting us get out to run the track at the site of the 1st Olympics,
        And to Vatican City. Those places I saw on that 6 month cruise is what inspired me to be a history teacher. Even though I still work part time at 82, I do find some time for reading…..I will check out some of your other books also. Keep up the great work.

  6. I find it uncanny, how convincingly you speak through the voices of female narrators, especially in Incendiary and The Other Hand. Have to admit, was less taken by Gold, which seemed a bit more sentimental. I guess I find your brutally honest writing from the female perspective startling. Cannot wait to read your new novel. I must admit, you and Christos Tsialkos are my two favourite contemporary writers. I guess it must be the unsettling quality of your writing. I feel the outrage for the cruel twists of fate that befall your characters…. It’s odd, because both Incendiary and C.T.’s Barracuda left me feeling this way. Thank you for rocking me in my complacency…….

    1. Hi Robert, I was honoured to read this generous & interesting message from you. Thank you. Like you, I’m a big fan of Christos’s writing and have had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times. It seems to me that he has a big heart in real life as well as on the page. I completely agree with you about Gold & if I could have my time again I would write it differently. It was the best I could do at the time, and it seemed good to me at the time, but looking back on it now I suspect it’s in my top 4 but not in my top 3. I think I’m back in the room with Everyone Brave & hope you will enjoy it! Thanks again for your great message.

  7. I am almost finished a review copy of Everyone Brave and hadn’t realised it was loosely based on your grandparents’ story. Amazing to see photos of them on this page. Brings their story even more to life. And how wonderful still to have their letters.

  8. Hello Chris,

    I’m waiting very curious for your new novel, as I like your intersting stories. When can we expect to get here in Germany? Couldn’t find anything about it. I hope soon??

    1. Hello Beate, thank you for your kind question. I’m delighted to report that Everyone Brave is Forgiven will be published in German by DTV. It is currently being worked on by my longstanding German translator, the excellent Susanne Goga-Klinkenberg. I’m afraid I don’t yet know the exact publication date, but I will post on this website and on Twitter @chriscleave as soon as I do. I hope you’ll enjoy the book! Thanks and all good wishes – Chris

  9. Hello – I am an editor and wondering why the ‘is’ in your title is not capitalized? Was this a purposeful editorial choice?

    1. To Julie Berger – Hello Julie and thank you for a very good question. From my POV it was simply an aesthetic choice. It is equally good, I think, to capitalise the shorter words in a title or to leave them lowercase. The canonical exception is to capitalise all verbs even if they are short – but my eye didn’t like the title with a title case “Is”, so I kept it lowercase.

  10. Chris: First of all, I am bowled over by your replying to people who post here. Don’t feel you have to in my case since my main purpose is merely to tell you how fine I think you are. I say that rather than congratulations on your writing because after I finished Little Bee I had this moment in which I had these contrasting thoughts come to me. One was to remember all the mess we have in this country and in the world because so many of us are mean and insecure. The other was more a feeling than a thought because all the goodness that I have received in a lifetime of reading just came flooding through me. It occured to me that there will always be fine people in the world if there are books written by people like you. Thank you. Now I go on to searching for your other books and waiting eagerly for your new one. Oh, and yes, congrats!!!

  11. Hello Chris
    I’m a French guy living in Thailand and I discovered your books in Indonesia 🙂 A guy in a small Javanese bookshop recommended ‘The Other Hand’ to me, and I was totally under the spell for the next 2 days. Unputdownable ! Then I purchased ‘Incendiary’ in Bangkok and, if possible, was even more enthralled. Totally disappointed, however, by the movie, which I saw quite a bit later, but then we all know how seldom movies do justice to good novels. When it’s a masterpiece the exercise is even more risky, I guess !
    I’m very much looking forward to your new book, it feels like eagerly awaiting the arrival of a dear friend. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your wonderful work.

  12. Chris
    Congratulations on your new book, an extraordinary novel, a tour de force, brave, confronting, and beautiful. The book I’ve been waiting for since The Other Hand. Can’t wait to sell it at Avenue Bookstore in Melbourne? Looking forward to your next book tour to Australia.
    Regards, Chris
    Avenue Bookstore, Albert Park

  13. Hi Chris,
    Hello from Sydney, Australia. I am waiting patiently for your new novel Everyone Brave is Forgiven to arrive in April. I hope you will tour, once again, in Sydney. You are always welcome! Good luck.

    1. Thank you Michael – that’s such a kind message & I would like nothing more than to return! I *think* if I’m lucky then I will get to visit in September. Trying to wrestle the dates into shape at the moment & will let you know if & when it’s looking set. In the meantime all good wishes to you & thanks for your kind words. All best, CC

  14. Chris,
    Finally a new book. Can’t wait from Canada. How long before we are able to get it? I’ve read all your books and love how you write. Please write faster. 🙂
    I look forward to finally reading your new one.

    1. To Julie Wilcock – thank you – what a kind message – I like “please write faster”! “Everyone Brave” will be out in Canada on 3rd May. If you’re interested in author events I’ll be touring there from May 15th-20th (will post the events here when I have details). Thanks again, and I hope you’ll enjoy the new book – CC

      1. Hi Chris,
        I so enjoyed each one of your books. I just missed seeing you in Seattle so am hoping that you will make it to Vancouver. Definitely will preorder Everyone Brave.

  15. Chris, as I just woke up wandering if a new Chris Cleave novel could be on its way, I just learned there is. Will EBIF be released in The Netherlands as well? If not, I’ll be standing in your garden, hallway and parking lot till you sell me a copy yourself. Love all your work, with Gold as most surprisingly gripping. A big thanks and appreciation from your Dutch fans. Ramon Cyrus

    1. To Ramon Cyrus – ha ha, that’s great to hear – thank you! (Terms & conditions apply – please do not actually stand in my garden as it might freak out the neighbours a bit). Yes, I’m delighted to say that Everyone Brave will be published in The Netherlands by my longstanding and excellent publisher, Prometheus. I loved your message, I’m grateful to you for reading my books, and I really hope you’ll enjoy the new one! All best – CC

  16. Dear Mr. Cleave,
    I received Everyone Brave is Forgiven through NetGalley and read it last week. I have been deeply moved and am rather haunted by the scenes and characters.

    Because the experiences of the characters were inspired by your grandparents’ experiences I have thought it had to be devastating to put Mary and Tom and Alastair and Hilda through such horrors. What was it like for you as a writer to put these lovely young people in harm’s way?

    I also think it so interesting that instead of idealizing the British people, which is what we usually see in America, you show the smallness of mind in the rich, the country folk who won’t take in imperfect or different children, blatant racism, and the bureaucracy that evacuated the zoo animals before the schoolchildren.

    I expect someday the book will be made into a movie. I fear that people won’t read the book first and the movie will become a war romance and scenes like Mary’s near drowning, or Simonson’s tasting the jam, will lose their impact.

    Best wishes, Nancy

    1. To Nancy – Thank you very much for reading Everyone Brave and for your thoughtful & interesting message. Yes, it was an intense experience to write it. In fact in my early versions I gave the characters the real names of my family members, before changing them in the later drafts. This was an important rule I made for myself if I was going to write a wartime book – it forced me to remember in every line that the people of that generation were and are real, and loved, and that they exist as human beings and not just as ciphers to play out some notion of bravery. I think that approach also let me get past some of the layers of nostalgia that have turned our collective idea of the war into false memory in some respects. I didn’t want the novel to be polemic or iconoclastic, but I did want it to be emotionally honest, which meant navigating issues of race and social inequality that are more often redacted. I think it’s a more compelling story for that. To your point about an eventual movie – it’s a long story and would certainly need to be radically cut. That can sometimes be done very well if the filmmaker selects one strand of the story to tell, rather than attempting to squeeze the whole quart into a pint pot. I always think that’s a good problem to have – far better than the alternative of having a two-hour feature film to fill, and nothing to say in it! Thanks again for reading the book & for your interesting reflections on it. All best – CC

  17. Hello Mr. Cleave

    I’ve read a ton of books in my lifetime, of all genres. I’ve been moved by many of them. But never have I read something as powerful and as analytical of the human condition as your novel ‘Gold’. ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ by Katherine Paterson and ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ by Jodi Picoult come close to the level of excellence you have achieved in your writing. I consider myself lucky to have come across this book, while searching for books on Olympic athletes and the Olympics, which is also a passion of mine.
    Please continue to write like this. You are a force of good in this world, in these dark and desperate times. thank you.

    1. To Lashlane Cooray – thank you, what a kind message. I’m glad you liked ‘Gold’. It hasn’t been as popular as my other novels but I still have a soft spot for it. It was my first novel written in the third person and I think that at certain moments – if you’ll forgive the cycling analogy – you can see that it still has its training wheels on. But I do try to push myself further into human psychology with each novel, and I like that about ‘Gold’. Despite its faults it still feels to me like an honest exploration of that great dilemma at the heart of all of us: what will we choose, friendship or success, when we really can’t have both? Thanks again for your generous message – you sound like someone who makes good choices. All best – CC

  18. Hi Chris,

    I would just like to say, out of every work I have read by a writer (and I am an English student so I have read an awful lot!), your style and imaginative plots have to be applauded. In my eyes, you’re one of the greats, and a favourite writer of mine. Incendiary still haunts me.


    1. To Charlotte Maher – thanks enormously for your kind verdict on my work. I don’t know if I deserve it, but I’m certainly delighted to have it! It means a lot to me – and calms my nerves a little when I sit down to write. All good wishes to you – CC

  19. Hi Chris,
    My name is Cindy. I am in the United States. Your book has been on my book shelf for years, but I am not quite sure how I acquired it. I picked it up last week and I just finished it this morning. It was a great read and I shared it on my Facebook page for others to read and enjoy. I love that you have included a reading group guide! I look forward to reading more of your work.


  20. Dear Chris,

    I am a member of the amazon vine programme and a top reviewer (125 today) with many years of reading and reviewing books behind me. I was offered a copy of Everyone Brave by the vine list and have just finished it. Such a substantial book requires some mulling over in order to do it justice in my review. As I was reading a proof copy I wanted to get in touch before writing. I wonder how much will be altered in the published copy. I realise that for the writing to stay in character throughout 1939 to 1942 required much research and an ear for howlers. The only one I picked up was the use of the word ‘disc’ for what I am sure would have been gramophone record, and the unreality around standing men drinks for stuff when your wallet had apparently just been stolen. (page 175 of my red copy). Also the perhaps intended twice use of the sound of coal being tumbled into the purdonium… Don’t think I am being picky but things do sometimes jump out! Otherwise all is admirable, the way you have brought in Malta lifts the story out of the ordinary and introduces fresh meat what otherwise might look like old boiled ones or should I say tea leaves! It would be great to hear back, Kind Regards, Katharine Kirby (65 brought up in SE London, played on bombsites, knew about peasoupers…)

    1. Hi Katharine,
      Thank you very much indeed for reading Everyone Brave, and for reviewing it. I really appreciate that you’ve taken the time to get in touch, too. I’m glad you didn’t find too many clangers. I did a lot of research, as you correctly intuit, but some anachronisms will always get through. Between me and my various publishers, we picked up a couple of dozen errors in between the proof copy, which is the version you have, and what will be the final text. My greatest embarrassment was my use of the modern Waterloo Bridge in the year before it was actually completed – thankfully, my excellent proof reader picked that up. Thank you very much for flagging “gramophone disc” vs “gramophone record”. I do have some early contemporary references to “disc”, but I will now go back and try to find the point at which the use of “disc” became widespread. If necessary I will go back to the text and fix it. Where I will gratefully agree with you is that Alistair shouldn’t pay for drinks after his wallet is gone – thank you, I will fix that! I’m glad you enjoyed the book and I’m grateful for your very kind & helpful comments. All best – CC

  21. I have chosen Little Bee for my book club to read but they are having trouble sourcing it in England. I was given it by my Aunt and have since passed it on to someone else. I LOVED it so much and am really keen for us to read and discuss it. Could you tell me where I can get four copies asap!!!

    Many thanks

    1. Hi Alexandra, with any luck you’ll be able to find LITTLE BEE in any good bookshop in England, where it will appear under its alternative title of THE OTHER HAND. Thank you for your kind words about the novel, and thanks for picking it for your book club. I hope everyone will enjoy it! All best – CC

  22. I picked up ‘Gold’ from a book exchange in the Iguana Perdida, a lovely hostel at Lago Atitlan in Guatemala. Written inside the book was “Read this, it’s going to struck holes in your soul and then fill them”. I was intrigued. That book was the first book ever that gave me the feeling of not wanting to stop reading but at the same time not being able to read any further. The suspense, the emotional grip the book had on me was unreal. An incredible experience reading it. Safe to say, you are my new favourite author. I’m looking at ‘The Other Hand’ at this moment and I’m definitely going to pick this book up as well!

    Cheers, keep on doing the good work :)!

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