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We Must Be Brave

Length: 16 hrs and 9 mins
4.1 out of 5 stars (11 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A woman; a war; a child that changed everything. 

Spanning the sweep of the 20th century, We Must Be Brave is a luminous and profoundly moving novel about the people we rescue and the ways in which they rescue us back.

She was fast asleep on the back seat of the bus. Curled up, thumb in mouth. Four, maybe five years old.

I turned around. The last few passengers were shuffling away from me down the aisle to the doors. ‘Whose is this child?’ I called.

Nobody looked back.

December, 1940. As German bombs fall on Southampton, the city’s residents flee to the surrounding villages. In Upton village, amid the chaos, newly married Ellen Parr finds a girl sleeping, unclaimed at the back of an empty bus. Little Pamela, it seems, is entirely alone.

Ellen has always believed she does not want children, but when she takes Pamela into her home the child cracks open the past Ellen thought she had escaped and the future she and her husband, Selwyn, had dreamed for themselves. As the war rages on, love grows where it was least expected, surprising them all. But with the end of the fighting comes the realisation that Pamela was never theirs to keep....

A story of courage and kindness, hardship and friendship, We Must Be Brave explores the fierce love we feel for our children and the astonishing power of that love to endure.

©2019 Frances Liardet (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic Reviews

"This is storytelling at its best. Wise, generous and captivating." (Sarah Winman, author of Tin Man)

"Oh, I loved this book so much! It’s strikingly authentic, beautifully written, and a wonderfully touching depiction of the families people create for themselves when blood relatives let them down. It broke my heart and glued it together again. Just perfect." (Jill Mansell, author of Rumour Has It)

"We Must Be Brave is a wonderful novel. A beautifully written story of love and loss, with thoughtfully crafted characters and so much to think about long after you’ve finished reading it. It is one of those novels you can talk about for hours - the perfect book club read." (AJ Pearce, author of Dear Mrs Bird)

What listeners say about We Must Be Brave

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  • Sigrin
  • 12-04-2020

Must we always be brave?

Wow, this was a beautiful book. I was worried that this might be chick-lit for older women, but it was so much more than that. Before I speak about the book I would like to mention the simply marvelous narration. The child voices for the young Pamela and Penny were very good. I find so often that narrators screech children's voices which is like finger nails down a blackboard. The bulk of the story is told over many years covering pre WW2 to 2010 and charts the life of Ellen Parr, her marriage to Selwyn, their lives in Southampton and her encounter with Pamela an abandoned child on a bus during the war. Ellen encounter another child later named Penny who she also took under her wing. There are some happy and sad times during the book which will tug at your emotions but on the whole it is very endearing without being sickly sweet. Highly recommend.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Parksparker
  • 06-05-2019

What beautiful story

I loved this book. As always it took me a while to become properly invested in the story but then, oh I felt I was there in person, I could hear my Nan so clearly in some of the characters voices. An emotional ride that had me in tears many times and captured the different times so well. I loved Ellen and I will miss her. I was extremely glad the story ended where it did and the author did not choose the obvious ending. Life does not draw neat lines and We must be brave reflects this perfectly

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jules Jackson
  • 07-02-2020

Absolutely excellent

Beautifully written. An outstanding book. Poignant, sad, joyous; a fascinating exploration of what constitutes ‘family’. I was completely absorbed by the story and characters. My book of the year so far.

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  • Book reviews
  • 08-11-2019

Fabulous

I listened to this on audio and thoroughly enjoyed the storyline, beautiful prose and a great performance from the narrator. A moving and gentle story of love, loss and understanding told for the most part through the eyes of Ellen, spanning her lifetime but focussing mainly on the years when she was caring for a young child. Would very much recommend.

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  • Melanie Preston Lewis
  • 06-11-2019

Beautiful

What a treat We Must Be Brave is - many thanks to Frances Liardet for the exquisite writing contained within this book. I finished the story in one day as I kept returning to it again and again. Ellen Parr, together with Pamela and Paula have burrowed their way into my heart and I will miss them. The tale spans many years and takes you through myriad emotions. However it is never over sentimental or syrupy; it presents the tale and the nuances within it are yours to enjoy. Alongside the main characters we have Selwyn, Lucy and other beautifully detailed players, each one adding their own special sparkle to what is already a magical tale. A highly commendable book of unique and endearing people who manage to find silver linings on even the darkest days. This is a 'must read' book for anyone who appreciates happiness, love and friendship.Perfect performances from Penelope Freeman and Louise Jameson, (slightly spoilt by some less-than-perfect editing). Otherwise, bliss!

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  • Ian Whitesmith
  • 15-09-2019

Slow burner that's invasive.

I struggled with this at the start with what I thought to be an over sweet beginning that was then contrasted with the dire circumstances of a live on poverty in the 30s. By the end I recognised the basic simplicity of the story line of love and friendship can be supreme even in modern times. Carefully crafted through believable characters it does not challenge the listener but slowly invades your thoughts with its positive message.

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  • Prue Hornby
  • 03-07-2019

Boring

I kept waiting for something to happen. The narrator was so slow, I put it on faster to get over this.

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  • Kateinthe
  • 26-06-2019

Incredible book narration was superb

Beautifully written. You could loose yourself in the book totally. The narration was amazing. I loved her interpretation of both children Pamela and Penny. I cried, laughed and couldn’t put the book down. When it ended I was taken by surprise, not because it was a poor ending but I was absorbed in the story and characters so much I didn’t see it coming ! Truly one of the best books I have read in a long time.

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  • SazMcD
  • 25-06-2019

Tender and evocative story

A maternal love story, beautifully drawn in wartime England, and later years, this is a tale that will capture your heart. I really enjoyed it but couldn’t help wishing that Ellen or Pamela had done something sooner - a bit like my feelings about Captain Corelli. Generally well read by Louise Jamieson (predominantly) but I kept wishing someone had told her it’s either “a hotel” or “an ‘otel” as the many instances of “an hotel” with a stressed h grated somewhat.

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  • Val
  • 12-05-2019

A weepie but a goodie

The reading on this is superb; the best I've ever heard, but have plenty of hankies ready ... it's heart-renching.