We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet #NetGalley #BookReview @4thEstateBooks


Author: Frances Liardet

Genre: General Fiction

Format: Paperback 432 pages

Release Date:  7 February 2019

Publisher: Fourth Estate

I would like to thank the publisher and the author for the opportunity to read this book via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


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

Spanning the sweep of the twentieth 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 realization 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.

My Thoughts

What an absolutely beautiful story. This book was not what I was expecting at all. I was originally drawn to it as it is predominantly set in the 1940’s which is one of my favourite periods of history to read books set in. However, this story doesn’t really focus on the war as such, which is what I was expecting. 

Throughout the story we mainly follow Ellen through her life and the various people she meets on the way and how they have all shaped her in their own way and made her life what it’s become. 

There is a bit of too-ing and fro-ing with the timeline, but only for a couple of chapters as we go back to Ellen’s early life which creates some background on the dynamics between her and her husband. Ellen is a fantastically likeable character in my opinion. She is so robust and resolute and she reminded me in so many respects of qualities my grandmother possesses. It was a real joy to read through Ellen’s life, even the hard parts when things aren’t all sunshine and rainbows. 

This is one of those books that’s not plot driven, but very much character driven. The author really made me feel a connection to the characters in this book and made Upton sound like a really charming place to visit.  I was most impressed with this book and would not hesitate to recommend it.

About the Author

Frances Liardet is a child of the children of the Second World War. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and studied Arabic at Oxford before traveling to Cairo to work as a translator. She currently lives in Somerset, England, with her husband and daughter, and runs a summer writing session called Bootcamp. We Must Be Brave is her second novel. 

For more reviews and updates you can follow me on Twitter @BooksBucks

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