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When We Were Young & Brave: A Novel Paperback – Deckle Edge, October 6, 2020
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From the Publisher
"In her newest novel, Hazel Gaynor brings the reader all the way to Japanese-occupied China...A story of courage, friendship, and humanity in the bleakest of circumstances, Gaynor takes a slice of true history and brings it to vivid life. I loved these characters and rooted for them all the way." -- Mary Beth Keane, New York Times bestselling author
“Hazel Gaynor again breathes fresh life into a lost piece of history...While the students and teachers are tested to the limits by the hardship and privations of war, this is ultimately a story of friendship and profound bravery. When We Were Young & Brave is transporting, important, and tremendously moving.” -- Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times best-selling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis
“In When We Were Young and Brave, Hazel Gaynor gifts readers with an extraordinary and unique story of war—one unlike any we have read before...With skill, warmth, and delicate grace, Gaynor peels back the layers of research and fact to reveal the tender heart behind this fascinating piece of history.” -- Lynda Cohen Loigman, USA Today bestselling author of The Two-Family House and The Wartime Sisters
"When We Were Young & Brave is a stunning novel of resilience and hope as a Girl Scout troop must brave the hardships of life in a Japanese internment camp during WWII. Set amidst the captivating, colorful backdrop of China, Gaynor enchants with her masterful storytelling...not to be missed!" -- Heather Webb, USA Today bestselling author
"With her latest, Gaynor unveils a fresh perspective in World War II historical fiction, one that profoundly reveals the power of resilience and community in troubled times. Deeply moving and unforgettable."
-- Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue
"A compelling story of innocents caught up in the machine of global conflict, so wonderfully written and soul-stirring. Gaynor beautifully explores the heart’s brave struggle to make sense of the upside-down world that is war. Well done!" -- Susan Meissner, bestselling author of The Last Year of the War
"I couldn't put When We Were Young & Brave down. This wonderful story about the Chefoo's School's courageous educators and tenacious students can teach us all something about the power of hope and perseverance in the face of crisis and uncertainty." -- Elise Hooper, acclaimed author of Fast Girls and The Other Alcott
"Hazel Gaynor’s novels are so well researched and so rich in detail that one cannot help but be swept away to a time and place far removed from our own and live the drama through characters so beautifully realized that one walks amongst them. An absolute treat for any reader..." -- Liz Nugent, Irish Times #1 bestselling author of Our Little Cruelties
"Important. Heartrending. Hopeful...I was moved to tears...as Gaynor paid witness to the extraordinary bravery and resilience of the teachers and children of Chefoo School…Hazel Gaynor is an author who never fails to shine a bright light onto our historical pasts, making real-life events and characters dance on the page." -- Carmel Harrington, Irish Times bestselling author of A Thousand Roads Home
“The latest novel from bestselling English author Hazel Gaynor is reminiscent of J.G. Ballard’s powerful classic Empire of the Sun…” -- BookPage
About the Author
Hazel Gaynor is the award-winning New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 Romantic Novelists’ Association Historical Romantic Novel of the Year award. Her third novel, The Girl from The Savoy, was an Irish Times and Globe and Mail bestseller, and was shortlisted for the 2016 Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year. Her most recent novel, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, was a USA Today and Irish Times bestseller, and was shortlisted for the 2019 Historical Writers’ Association Gold Crown Award. Hazel’s work has been translated into fourteen languages. She lives in Ireland with her husband and two children.
- Publisher : William Morrow Paperbacks (October 6, 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 448 pages
- ISBN-10 : 006299526X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062995261
- Item Weight : 11.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.31 x 1.01 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #43,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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by Hazel Gaynor
During our current tumultuous times, When We Were Young and Brave was somewhat of a difficult read for me, but I’m glad it is now a part of my personal reading journey. Hazel Gaynor’s latest book relates a fictional version of the events following Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor as they play out for the students and teachers at the China Inland Mission School in Chefoo, China. With Japan’s invasion of China, the Japanese seize and occupy the school, later interning the residents in the much larger prison camp known as the Weihsien Civilian Assembly Center where sanitation facilities are disgusting and meals are meager, nutritionally inadequate for growing children, and almost inedible. Despite the harsh conditions, the teachers protect the children as best they can while rallying them with insistence on routines, cleanliness, and a hearty “chin up” attitude. Of particular note is the role of their Girl Guide troop and standards that help the students in maintaining a positive outlook.
The last sections of the book, “Liberation” and “Remembrance,” are remarkable in the beauty of the skillful writing that describes the impact of the American liberation on the camp residents. They gain relief from the fears that haunted them daily, but endure the substitution of new anxieties and questions for the future. Where will they go and what will they do? Is anyone waiting for them at home?
The story is told by alternating narrators. Elspeth is a competent, well-organized, and kind teacher who has a special motherly feeling for Nancy, the daughter of missionaries in China. Their relationship is always teacher and student, but as months of internment become years, Elspeth takes on increasingly more of the commitment for safe care that she made to Nancy’s mother as they departed by boat to sail to the school, both as first-timers. We view their ordeals from both Elspeth’s and Nancy’s points of view.
There are a lot of themes in the book including resilience, relationships, releasing the past, and looking to the future. Symbolism is also important in the kingfisher that becomes the emblem of the new Girl Guide patrol and the sunflower which holds a special meaning for teacher and students.
The characters emerge as three dimensional figures as they are well developed. Realism comes into play with descriptions of the harsh conditions; no one’s story is fairytale like or even positive. The setting is well-executed with vivid word pictures. As the Chinese workers slosh through the camp, the odor of the filth of “honey-pot” buckets they pull from the latrines makes an unforgettable olfactory experience. There are also more pleasant descriptions of the beauty outside the camp, but glimpses are rare for those interned. The last two sections make the book a winner for me, but the first sections are also well written and essential to the success of this historical novel.
Category: Historical Fiction
Notes: There is a very informative section at the end of the book that describes the author’s research and thought processes and some historical background. The author has also included a brief history of the Girl Guides as that organization plays an important role in the girls’ lives. Other additions are a list of books and websites for further reading, including original source documents found at weihsien-paintings.org, and some questions for discussion.
Publication: October 6, 2020—Harper Collins
When she was cross, Miss Kent spoke in a way that reminded me of brittle twigs snapping underfoot on autumn walks. I felt my cheeks go red. Without giving me a ticking-off, she’d done exactly that.
I knew the smile she gave us that morning was the sort of “we must be brave” smile adults use when they’re trying to pretend something awful isn’t happening.
But, as I’d come to realize about life during a war, nothing stayed the same for long. Just when you thought you’d adjusted and adapted and found a way to cope, the situation changed.
book down each night wile reading it. I knew the Japanese had camps during the war but really didn’t know much about them. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read about
the history of World War 2.
This was a very well written, heartrending book. The children and the teachers maintained their spirit, kindness and courage throughout their time as prisoners of the Japanese emperor. It was disturbing to read in light of our current U.S. administration. We could very well be facing war against China and once again, people are blind to the true evil. I hope we can find the courage and strength to persevere.