I’ve never read a Chris Cleave novel before. I’ve been missing something good if the rest are like his latest, Everyone Brave Is Forgiven. The main character, Mary North, says her only talent is conversation, but what an outstanding talent that is.
In 1939, Mary leaves finishing school within hours of Britain’s declaration of war and volunteers with the War Office. Her assignment makes sense — teaching elementary students — and provides a new perspective on the evacuation of London’s children (or not) and on the replacement of men who went to the front. Her first lover is not allowed to join the military because his civil job is considered essential while his best friend becomes an officer posted to the worst spots in the first two years of the war. At home, the Blitz torments Mary while her upper-class parents seem immune in their suburban location.
One couldn’t ask for more drama in a World War II setting. The dialogue is flawless and constantly entertaining. My favorite line (though not from the dialogue that I’ve been raving about above):
When set against the great corruption of the war, his own small rot seemed, if not excusable, then at least unexceptional.
I highly recommend this book, which I purchased at Barefoot Cowgirl Books in Flagstaff, AZ.