Love in Wartime

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. Simon and Schuster, 2016. 9781501124372.

Eighteen-year-old Mary North, spoiled daughter of a politician, abandons her Swiss ski trip to volunteer at the outbreak of World War II — so suddenly that she’s still in ski wear when she checks in. She’s disappointed with her boring assignment as schoolteacher. But then she creates her own excitement by seducing her boss, Tom Shaw. Everything is complicated when Mary meets Tom’s handsome roommate Alistair Heath, formerly an art restorer but currently an artillery officer, just back from the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Alistair is posted to Malta, Mary takes charge of a motley class of kids returned from their evacuation from London, and the two continue their romance in lighthearted letters, not all of which reach their destinations. Alistair narrowly escapes death many times. Mary ruffles society feathers with her egalitarian notions and by accepting a black student into her class. Mary and her friend Hilda volunteer for air raid duty, and Mary drives an improvised ambulance that carries stretchers which, empty or not, are tied to its roof!

This romance is sprawling, vivid, witty, and, though it might seem messy at first, tightly plotted and carefully constructed.

Thanks to Robert in San Diego for this guest book review!

Housing Goals

Lucky Penny by Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota
Oni Press, 2016

The short pitch: Girl Scott Pilgrim with less video games.

lucky-penny-coverPenny loses her job and her apartment but lands on her feet (sort of) by getting a job at a laundromat run by the 12-year-old son of the owners, living out of her friend’s storage unit, and crushing on Walter, the desk guy at the Y where she showers. The character dialogue and art are both super-expressive and well done, the reason I’m a big fan of Ananth Hirsh (who also writes as Ananth Panagariyra) and Yuko Ota.

I think it would be interesting to live in a storage unit — it would be like a tiny house but even more so! — in kind of the same way I liked thinking about living in a museum after I read From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.