Reviewed by Louise Wykes
This is a novel about how stories bring magic to our lives.
Natalie and Rose are transported to the Atlantic Ocean in 1943, to a lifeboat where an ancestor survived for fifty days. Natalie struggles when nine-year-old daughter Rose is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and refuses her life-saving injections and blood tests. When they begin dreaming about and seeing a man in a brown suit who feels hauntingly familiar they realise he has something for them - his diary.
Only by using her imagination, newspaper clippings, letters and this diary will Natalie share the true story of Grandad Colin's survival at sea, and help her daughter cope with her illness and, indeed, survive.
Wow, I have just this minute finished How to be Brave and I am just in an emotional state trying to process and express how much I loved this book which is definitely a contender for my Book of the Year even in September!
Natalie is devastated to discover her nine year old daughter, Rose has been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes which means she has to be injected with insulin on a daily basis. In the process of learning about such a life changing disease, Natalie is terrified that she will lose her daughter forever who seems to hate her mum for having to inflict so much pain on her on a daily basis even if it is to keep her alive. With Jake, her husband, serving in Afghanistan, it seems that Natalie will have to cope with all this on her own as her husband can only briefly telephone home and never at a regular time.
It is whilst Rose is first in hospital after collapsing when she is diagnosed with diabetes, that Natalie meets a man who seems eerily familiar. He seems to be there to help Natalie through her darkest time and after a tip off from this mysterious visitor, Natalie and Rose discover a diary in their garden shed which belonged to Natalie’s grandfather, Colin. It details the time that Colin survived the singing of his ship at sea and his battle to survive in the most hopeless of circumstances, in a lifeboat, floating aimlessly on the ocean.
Natalie makes a bargain with Rose, if she allows Natalie to inject her daily, she will share more of Colin’s story each day. This seems to work as Rose becomes fascinated and entranced by her great grandfather’s story and is hungry to know each day what happens.
This book completely embraces the notion that stories and words can have a healing power and can have an ability to keep people going in the darkest of times. I was completely on side with Natalie as she tried to fight her daughter in a bid to keep her alive and learning that it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help or to be grateful for it.
I consumed this book in two days as I hated parting with it – hoping and wishing for Natalie, Rose and of course, Colin. This book consumed and moved me and was just magnificent. Even if you have to beg, steal or borrow, read this book – it is truly spectacular.