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.
Surprise! You thought Orentober was over, well technically it is but we don’t need an excuse to review more Orenda Books, especially when they are the birthed books of Louise Beech. I’m not even going to go into how I am always the last one to the party because many of you already know that by now. How To Be Brave was published by Orenda Books in June 2015, so it has only taken me 5 years to read. Louise’s books are special and I don’t want to binge read them all at once, I still have two held back for emergencies! If you’ve not already read Louise Beech’s debut novel yet, I really recommend you buy it – along with a few bottles of water, biscuits and tissues! You can grab a copy here.
One thing that I always admire about Louise’s books is how she takes a part of herself and injects it into the fictionalised storyline, how she creates a raw emotive base of every novel that she writes which then is built into such a stunning collection of words – words that will chip their way into your heart and stay there. How To Be Brave is a book that has taken on many aspects of Louise’s life, her daughter Katy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and her granddad Colin was actually stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. I felt by knitting these life experiences into a novel, not only would it have been therapeutic to Louise, but I think to others, you, the reader who may also find a part of themselves within these pages.
How To Be Brave revolves around two narratives, one from the present day, where you’ll meet Rose who has just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and her mother Natalie who immediately shuts out the world, scared of how this will affect her daughters life and how she can make this health transition easier for them both. This is the main narrative, with a second hidden amongst it from Colin from 1943 who finds himself a hostage of the sea he has come to love. All parties lives have been altered by a torpedo, an invisible threat which has unravelled the structure of their existence, where learning to survive the harshness is now priority. I love how Louise has created a parallel storyline with themes that connect the past with the present, not only does she include snippets of Colin’s log book at the beginning of every chapter but she has tied parts of the narratives together in terms of learning to live with the situation, while also creating this distraction for Rose which was Natalie’s intention. I think this was further created by using the paranormal aspect, which made my heart warm and also gave hope at the same time. The bravery found in both storylines shines through, from Colin and Ken holding on, supporting one another in a brotherly way that they do, is truly admirable especially when that shines through and fixes the broken bridge between not only Natalie and Rose, but the internal one within Natalie.
As a mother, Natalie feels like she has failed, feeling as though something she did during her pregnancy has caused Rose to develop this health condition. I think when the diagnosis was unveiled she went into maternal protective mode who felt as though she knew best for her daughter. She would administer the insulin, no one could care for her child better than her – not even Rose herself. Colin’s story didn’t only help Rose to become brave, it also taught Natalie that taken on such a task alone isn’t healthy. (Okay.. I’m rambling!) The two narratives that are perfectly entwined together teaches courage, bravery and that you are never alone in your struggles. From a maternal POV you just want to protect your children, to take away the pain, this hit me in all the feels full force. How To Be Brave is such a special, beautiful story that I personally think everyone should own a copy of. Both sides of the story clocked so flawlessly together, Louise is a storyteller like no other, she draws you in immediately with those heartstrings with her stunning visualization and gripping atmosphere. You’ll feel the waves of emotion crashing throughout the novel and you’ll taste the salt in the air. Louise has been labelled as a genre fluid author, one who has the talented ability to write a crime fiction, a ghost story and a love story, that makes you feel every single emotion as though you’re actually the character she’s developed. Every single word that Louise writes pull your heart and mind further into the storyline, especially be creating extraordinary characters who you can’t help but fall in love with. How to be brave is an incredible story and you must read it!
Thanks for popping along to read my review of this beautifully impeccable book, grab yourself a copy or maybe a Christmas gift idea for that special bookworm in your life. I’ll be passing my copy over to my oldest and I just know that she will love it! Have you already read How To Be Brave? What did you think?
Until next time,