Review of How To Be Brave by Louise Beech

The tears were running down my face as I read the final few Unknown (4)paragraphs of this wonderful, mesmerising novel that celebrates the fragility and strength of the human condition. 

Rose is just nine years old when she is diagnosed with a life threatening illness and she is having trouble accepting the lifestyle changes she’s going to have to make. Her mother, Natalie, is understandably terrified of losing her wilful daughter and struggles to find a way to reconnect with her. Both Rose and Natalie are set adrift in a sea of unknowns, learning how to survive each minute, hour and day as they come to terms with the huge changes the diagnosis requires.

Both are also haunted by the sight of a man in brown suit, who feels familiar, a man who has something for them.

It’s through the magic of storytelling that Natalie and Rose find a way to come together, as they are transported to the atlantic Ocean in 1943, to a lifeboat where one of their ancestors survived for 50 days. The true story of one relative’s courage during the second World War transforms their relationship, giving both Rose and Natalie the emotional, mental and physical strength to cope with Rose’s diagnosis, which demands everything they have to give.

The writing is incredibly evocative, I felt like I was sitting along side Rose and Natalie’s relative. I could feel the the boat rising and falling on the waves, taste the thick flesh of the all too rare raw fish on my thickened thirsty tongue and feel the intense heat of the sun as I lay exposed to the elements with the other crew members, as they grew weaker with each passing day.

I also felt Natalie’s fears as though they were my own, my heart was banging for her when Rose announced her rebellious intentions. Beech is brilliant at taking you into the world of a furious, frightened nine-year old girl, who uses adult terms, detachment and rejection as a defence mechanism.

Beech has written a novel that will reach out to anyone who feels cast adrift by a medical condition. Through these duel story lines, How to Be Brave will show you that it’s okay to be angry about the limitations of a long term medical diagnosis, that it’s okay to feel scared and that it’s okay to feel depressed for a while while you grieve for the life that you had before. Then this marvellous novel will show you how to live and find joy despite your challenging new circumstances.

This is beautifully written transformative storytelling that will reach into your heart, change your perspective and bring you safely back to land. Highly recommended, especially for anyone coping with a long term health condition, plus carers, friends and family.

Follow the author on Twitter: @LouiseWriter

Publisher: Orenda Books

I bought my copy from Waterstones, Nottingham.

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