The breathtaking new novel from the multiaward-winning author of The Other Hand.
When war is declared, Mary North leaves finishing school unfinished, goes straight to the War Office, and signs up.
Tom Shaw decides to give it a miss - until his flatmate, Alistair, unexpectedly enlists, and the conflict can no longer be avoided.
Young, bright and brave, Mary is certain she'd be a marvelous spy. When she is - bewilderingly - made a teacher, she instead finds herself defying prejudice to protect the children her country would rather forget.
Tom, meanwhile, finds that he will do anything for Mary. And when Mary and Alistair meet, it is love as well as war that will test them in ways they could not have imagined, entangling three lives in violence and passion, friendship and deception, inexorably shaping their hopes and dreams.
In a powerful combination of both humour and heartbreak, this dazzling novel weaves little-known history and a perfect love story through the vast sweep of the Second World War - daring us to understand that against the great theatre of world events, it is the intimate losses, the small battles, the daily human triumphs that change us most.
©2016 Chris Cleave (P)2016 Hodder & Stoughton
Superbly built characters. Clean, precision prose a skilful immersion of the fourth protagonist into war torn London. Best since The Dressmaker.
Thank you and congratulations Chris
I couldn't stop listening...beautifully narrated .. I thought that the story brought a great depth of the human condition from a time where society had no words of a deep experience and left so much between the lines...the war changed so many.. as a post war ex-Londoner I found the story moving
"An astonishing blend of laughter and pain."
This book took me completely by surprise. I listened to the first few chapters several times and It still made me laugh out loud with delight.
As the war progresses and the confidence and certainty of the main characters begins to disintegrate, the brilliant colours of the opening chapters darken and fade. The humour, which is always present, becomes bleaker and sharper.
I love the fact that Tom's jar of Blackberry jam takes on the significance of preserving colour and ultimately, redemption.
The narration was extraordinary. It was hard to believe there was only one narrator, so skilfully did Luke Thompson inhabit the different characters.
I cannot recommend this audible book enough.
"Good story, but missing something"
This was a great story set at the outbreak of WW2, with romance, testing of friendships, tragedy and triumphs. However, overall it missed something, that could have made it a great book.
Mr Cleave describes in great detail various really unimportant bits but when the chips were down and something major was happening like war, death and tragedy it was just not given the description and emotion it deserved. I had to rewind a couple of times thinking I had missed something.
An example was the diarrhoea like explosion of adjectives for the opening of the blackberry jam, but the death of one of the main characters was a couple of short sentences, with no real emotion. So that's why I gave it a low overall score.
The narration by Luke Thompson was perfect, his women's voices exceptional which makes me recommend this book despite the problems I have mentioned.
"A beautiful story"
So accurate about the time in which this novel is set, all already familiar to me, so moving, full of fascinating three dimensional characters.
Every book by Chris Cleave has been so worthwhile reading.
"I had just finished Nocturnal Animals when I moved onto this one"
I fell in love with this book almost instantly. It is a wonderful book full of love. I can not recommend it enough. I think after Nocturnal Animals it was just what I needed to clear away the spite and nastiness of that.
A great book touching on the damage of war and the little told story of ethnic minorities in war time London.
"very nice story beautifully read"
a little bit long and at first I was impatient for it to get going but I enjoyed the story and was pleased I kept listening
A personal look through a young women's eyes at her life and loves during WWII.
"Dire dire dire"
I wish I could have a refund!!!!! Profoundly overrated. Such flowery prose is relentless. Boring character s. Juvenile banter passing as humour and so cliched and stereotyped. The narrator sounded as bored as I was. Tried so hard to persevere but just couldn't. Can't comment on plot as one didn't appear before I had to give up. Narration was so laboured I even tried speeding it up but still didn't work!! VERY DISSAPPOINTED
No probably not. Entertainly , interesting and a little conventional. But read well, good characterisation & unusual situations.
Only the Brave - Beautiful prose, excellent narration and not a bad story. a strong there of relationships running through all characters.
"Thought provoking amd beautiful"
Very different to his other, contemporary stories. The story is gripping amd the writing style exquisite.
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