When We Were Young & Brave: a moving WWII story about a British girl and her teacher while in China.
Updated: Oct 4
The Chefoo School, in Northern China, is home to privileged British and American children of missionaries and diplomats. In 1941, Nancy Plummer (“Plum”) and her brother are students there and teacher Elspeth Kent has insured Plum’s mother that she will take special care of the young girl. The Japanese have overtaken China and the lives of the students and teachers are going to change forever.
When We Were Young & Brave starts in 1975 with Nancy looking back at her time during the war. This moving book is told through the eyes of Nancy and Elspeth, who develop a close bond. In addition to their studies, Elspeth has formed a troop of Brownies/Girl Guides (comparable to the Girl Scouts in the U.S.) which teaches Nancy and her friends leadership and life skills. Once England and the United States declare war on Japan, the school is overtaken and the students and teachers are their prisoners. Life in the school is able to continue with Japanese soldiers watching over them. They eventually are transported to a Civilian Assembly Center, otherwise known as an internment camp, where the children and teachers are living with others deemed as enemies of Japan. Life becomes progressively worse for everyone. The children and teachers rely on one another to survive as they are met with lack of food, sickness and extreme cruelty.
When We Were Young & Brave shines a light on a rarely told, heartbreaking side of the war. And seeing the war through the eyes of a young girl was particularly powerful. Nancy and Elspeth were two very appealing characters who show courage and resiliency. This was a very beautiful and worthwhile read inspired by the author's own family's personal story.
Many thanks to William Morrow / HarperCollins, NetGalley and author Hazel Gaynor for an advance copy of When We Were Young & Brave.
Get your Kleenex ready.
Rated 4.25 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: October 6, 2020.
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