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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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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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An absolute joy of an audiobook

Having downloaded several titles in a row and had to return a couple and not enjoyed the others much, it was such a joy to come across ‘We Must Be Brave’ by Frances Liardet. Beautifully read with tenderness and poise by the narrators and with prose honed with the skill and care of a master craftsman, this was one of my favourite books of the year so far. The south coast setting is evoked with such authenticity it’s clear the author knows the area well and her characters spring to life so we feel for them - in particular Ellen, the protagonist - as we would ourselves. Liardet has an exceptional gift when it comes to conveying the passions and idiosyncrasies of children and the little details that make up our lives - from rough blankets to Curly Wurlies - and I really would urge anyone who is interested in emotional interior life, the history of Britain and parenting by those who are not the ‘natural’ parents to read this wonderful novel. In this respect it may particularly tug at the heartstrings of stepparents, adoptive parents, foster carers and their charges, plus those experiencing fertility issues, though I cannot promise it won’t make such readers cry - it had me blubbing as I did the ironing. The author, like me, is the daughter of parents who lived through the Second World War and were profoundly impacted by it, and readers/listeners with that background may find strong resonance too. That I messaged Frances to say I’d loved it and she responded within the hour only enhanced my sense of the preciousness of the experience, and I hope others find their way to it and feel as moved as I did.

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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

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Thought provoking

I really loved this book, so nice talk about love that isn’t always the romantic kind, and to see women as the story not just accessories to men. It brought back fond and not so fond memories so at times a little hard going, not the authors fault. Thanks

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Just beautiful.

This was the most beautifully written book which transported me effortlessly into the lives of Ellen and Pamela and the host of surrounding cast. The dialogue was so credible and natural, helped by a superb narration, and the arc of the story was wholly satisfying. To capture the whimsy of a child so accurately speaks volumes of this author’s experiences and powers of observation. A wonderful, moving book that I heartily recommend.

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Gorgeous

I loved this book. Beautifully written, it transports you to the time and place as if you were inside the story. The characters were exquisitely drawn and I found myself invested in the story and the outcome. I especially felt the weight of the sadness in the story which I can still feel even now, having finished the book. So well done, avoiding over sentimentality but portraying the emotions perfectly. A special mention to the narrator who was exceptionally good. Highly recommend.

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beautiful

beautifully written, lovely story, very descriptive, easy to visualise, draws you in and makes you feel like part of the family

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Just didn’t get it

Really boring , I kept waiting for something to happen but it just didn’t. Very dull.

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Good beginning

Really good and well written story for the first half of the book then it completely loses its way and becomes pointless. So disappointing.

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Beautiful Story

I loved listening to this, it was perfect to listen to while at home, driving, dog walking, shopping etc. I highly recommend it. The characters were realistic but also likeable, which is important!