When We Were Young & Brave – Hazel Gaynor | A Book Review

When We Were Young & Brave - Hazel Gaynor

Title: When We Were Young & Brave

Author: Hazel Gaynor

Genre: Historical Fiction

About the book: It’s a novel inspired by true events set in China during World War 2. The story follows a group of teachers and students from a missionary school who are sent to a Japanese internment camp.

I received an advanced reader copy from HarperCollins Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: I haven’t read any historical novel about the wars set in China, so I was intrigued. The title and cover lend readers an idea of what to expect. Also, the beginning caught my attention and gave me chills.

Characters: The main protagonists are Elspeth Kent, a teacher who wants to return home to England, and Nancy Plummer, a ten year old British girl. I grew to admire both of them as well as some of the secondary characters.


“And yet there is a curel irony in that the memories I would rather forget are precisely the ones that I recall most often.”

Writing: It’s a little more than 400 pages. The story is told in first person alternating point of view between Elspeth and Nancy. There’s also some additional content at the end of the book with a brief history of the Girl Guides, a list of resources for further reading, and a reading group guide with dicussion questions.

Final thoughts:  I enjoyed the ending. Ultimately, it’s a sad story that examines grief and loss but also kindness and hope. If you want to learn more about internment camps in China, check out When We Were Young & Brave.

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