All the background for book clubs

Here’s what reading groups have been asking me about Everyone Brave is Forgiven – I hope my answers are useful. If you have questions about the novel, please ask them in the comments section at the bottom of this page & I’ll be delighted to answer.

Also, if your book club picks Everyone Brave is Forgiven, I’ll be honoured to join your group’s meeting via Skype if I can. (Here’s an example.) Please do get in touch about that. I’m an appreciative supporter of reading groups and will do everything I can for yours.

Why did you write Everyone Brave is Forgiven?

In the current era of bitter partisan politics and social fragmentation, I wanted to discover what makes us brave and united. I think we have more in common than we allow ourselves to believe, and are more capable of forgiving one another. Forgiveness is a hugely underrated quality, because it brings unity.

So I went back to the last time that our societies were united in a brave purpose, which was the victory over fascism. I wanted to write that era so engagingly – with all its romance and humour as well as its heartache – that you could escape into it completely, and forget you were reading a novel. I wanted you to be swept away in an immersive experience and emerge feeling strong and well, with your own ideas on how that golden generation became brave and united. My own view is that it’s all still inside us.

Can you summarise the novel and what its characters represent?

Yes – please see my short video introductions to each of the main characters. (Along with my short presentations on the novel’s background and my writing process.)

Is the novel based on a true story?

Yes – Everyone Brave is Forgiven is inspired by the true story of my grandparents, and you can read about them in this piece in The Guardian or this piece in The Daily Telegraph. There’s also a short video of me talking about my grandfather.

Are there any photos of your grandparents and their wartime letters?

Yes – I hope you like them:

How did you do your research?

In depth! For a short presentation of the research, please enjoy this video (2 mins). For a more detailed insight (17 mins), hear me talk about the research here:

Is there an official reading group guide?

Yes. There is a reading group guide and author Q&A from my US publisher Simon & Schuster, and a reading group guide from my UK publisher, Sceptre.

The novel uses racist language of the period. Are you a racist?

No, I’m not a racist and there are two straightforward reasons why I use the language of the time, which I explain here.

Which reviews do you think best sum up the novel?

I like this review from the Financial Times and this one from the New York Times Review of Books. There is a summary of review quotes compiled by my UK publisher.

Is there a background piece worth reading?

Yes – I highly recommend this piece from the National Post. I also hope that you’ll find my author’s note useful.


3 thoughts on “All the background for book clubs”

  1. Your book is so wonderful. I fell in love with Alistair, wanted to be Mary and wished for more for Tom. Seriously, though, you did such a wonderful job of storytelling that honors your grandparents and yourself. Thank you for your hard and loving work.

  2. To Mr Cleave-
    I just finished reading Everyone Brave a di want to thank you for the work and investment of yourself you put into it. I am not a writer,yet at times I can accurately put down what I feel – you have this gift as it applies to others: the bickerings between Mary and Hilda are captured perfectly, and those between Simonson and Alistair , so true to the give-and-take of affectionate banter. I don’t mind telling you I cried many times, each for a different reason and none for sadness. Most touching to me is when Tom observes “All the things we make exceptional are merely borrowed from the mundane and must without warning be surrendered to it.” For me this story was about loss fashioned into redemption. I REALLY wanted Alistair not to die on the raft and feared for the worst when he saw Duggan’s face. (By the way Duggan was a favorite – a wonderful glimpse of sweetness). Here is my question: in the very last paragraph, when Mary looks at Alistair whose eyes are closed “without a mark on him” he is only sleeping, correct? I’ve not been able to discern this and I so hope the answer is “yes”. I do hope for your reply.

  3. How do I become a British citizen? Reading this book makes me wish I were one. I was hooked from sentence one. I am on page 50 and still high as a kite. This is the first book in a long time I can’t put down. Thank you, Chris.

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