Here we are. Believe it or not it is five years ago today that Orenda Books published Louise Beech’s debut novel How To Be Brave in paperback, and what a journey we have all been on since then. I was very (very) late in reading this book, but if you’d like to see what I thought then do check out my review here. Today though, it is over to Mandie who is sharing her thoughts on this very special book on its very special day. For those who are unaware, here is what the book is all about:
About the Book
All the stories died that morning…until we found the one we’d always known.
When nine-year-old Rose is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, Natalie must use her imagination to keep her daughter alive. They begin dreaming about and seeing a man in a brown suit who feels hauntingly familiar, a man who has something for them.
Through the magic of storytelling, Natalie and Rose are transported to the Atlantic Ocean in 1943, to a lifeboat, where an ancestor survived for fifty days before being rescued. A simply unforgettable debut that celebrates the power of words, the redemptive energy of a mother’s love…and what it really means to be brave.
I don’t know how she does it, but each time Louise Beech writes a book it is as though she reinvents herself, never sticking to one particular genre. There are those who would think this is a pretty risky thing to do but somehow, she makes it work every time.
How To Be Brave is really two stories in one book, tied together by family connections. Natalie and Rose are very close as mother and daughter until Rose is diagnosed with diabetes and their world seems to come crashing down and their relationship is broken as they both try to come to terms with the changes that are needed to ensure that Rose learns to control it. Desperate to get the happy, agreeable 9 year old back, she makes a deal with her that every time she lets her test her blood and give her an injection she will read a bit of the story of her great grandfather during WW2.
Having family members who are diabetic and seeing close hand the havoc it can wreak on both the sufferer and their family, I really felt for Natalie as she struggled to come to terms with everything alone, feeling that she had to be strong for Rose and not show any signs of weakness, yet breaking her heart over the dramatic mood swings of her young daughter who was scared of what lay ahead. By focusing her attention on someone else and their struggles, Natalie managed to slowly draw Rose back in, admittedly only for fleeting moments to begin with but whilst there was the glimmer of hope they could get past it, there was no way she was giving up.
The story that Natalie wove about Colin and his comrades brought in a whole other dimension and I found that I became totally engrossed in their story as they dealt with so many obstacles in the hope that they would be rescued. You always got the sense that not all would survive but like them you hoped that they would. When the simplest things brought them a moment of relief you find yourself celebrating these small moments with them, not knowing when the next one will be.
How To Be Brave really is an emotional rollercoaster of a bookthat kept me turning page after page long into the night. With the whole book based on experience and true stories, this is one book that will stay with you for quite some time.
About the Author
Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The follow-up, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.
Books By Louise Beech