Tuesday, October 6, 2020

When We Were Young and Brave by Hazel Gaynor

Nancy Plummer was hoping to go home for Christmas, but her mother wrote she wouldn't be able to.

Elspeth Kent was hoping to hand in her resignation, but wasn't able to.

What kept them from their wishes is that in 1941 the Japanese army took over their British-run school, Chefoo, after Pearl Harbor was bombed.

The students and teachers were confined to the premises for a year and then made to move to another school. The new school was in terrible condition, but they made the best of it and hoped every day that they would be rescued by their countrymen.  

After being moved to the second school, they were again moved but to a camp.  Life was pretty normal except for being kept inside with guards and the lack of sanitation and food.

The book is told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of Nancy a student and Elspeth a teacher.

WHEN WE WERE YOUNG AND BRAVE is based on true events which I never was aware of, but it shows the resiliency and creativity of human nature to work with what you have. 

Ms. Gaynor portrayed the characters perfectly, and you could feel what they were feeling.

WHEN WE WERE YOUNG AND BRAVE was a bit slow at first, but once you get to know the characters, you will be drawn in as I was.

This book is about friendship, courage, hope, and endurance.  It is a beautiful book that will have you appreciating your freedom and your family.

Miss Gaynor’s meticulous research had me looking for more information about the lives of the teachers and students and more about the Chefoo school. 4/5

This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.








Gaynor incorporates her own family’s personal story from WWII into WHEN WE WERE YOUNG & BRAVE. 
Born just after the Great War, my grandmother grew up to watch her youngest brother head off to fighthe never returned,” relates Gaynor.   
The anguished letters her mother my great-grandmother continued to write to her dear Jack are utterly heart-breaking. Reading them gave me a very real sense of the desperation and agony felt by those separated during the war.
With WHEN WE WERE YOUNG & BRAVE, New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author Hazel Gaynor has created an engrossing, sympathetic novel that delves into the real internment of the Chefoo School during World War II."
Hazel's Great Grandmother, Alice
Hazel's Great Uncle, Jack


Hazel Gaynor is an award-winning New York Times, USA Today and international bestselling author. 
Her 2014 debut The Girl Who Came Home won the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award, A Memory of Violets was a 2015 WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, The Girl from Savoy was shortlisted for the 2017 Irish Book Awards, and The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter was shortlisted for the 2019 HWA Gold Crown Award. 
Last Christmas in Paris(co-written with Heather Webb) won the 2018 Women's Fiction Writers Association Star Award.  
Hazel was selected by Library Journal as one of Ten Big Breakout Authors for 2015. Her work has been translated into fourteen languages to date.  
She is co-founder of creative writing events The Inspiration Project, and lives in Ireland with her husband and two children.


  1. Totally enjoyed this book.

    I hope you get to read it.

    Thanks for stopping.

  2. Sounds great.
    I love the pictures.

    1. I know...aren't those pictures great?

      Thanks for commenting, Linda.

  3. Hi Elizabeth,

    Yep! You definitely sold this one to me. I have read quite a few World War Two books recently, but this one sounds so different to all the others and I love the personal memories shared by the author.

    I do like it when a book is set in a place which really exists (existed), so that I can do a little detective work of my own.

    Like yourself, I set off to research Chefoo School and I discovered this snippet of information.

    "Mr S Houghton (formerly on the staff at Monkton Combe School and who had joined the staff at Chefoo in 1927), became Head Master in 1946, until his sudden death in 1950"

    Monkton Coombe School is near Bath, literally 10 miles or less away from us and it has one of the best reputations around for an independent school.

    I like it when I can tie a book to a person or place near to me and this link is good enough for me.

    Thanks for sharing and the recommendation and Happy Reading :)

    Yvonne xx

    1. Wow...thank you, Yvonne, for this additional information.

      I like that too when a book is linked to an actual person or place.

      How fun is that about the school being so close to you.

      THANKS again so much. You always have interesting comments.

  4. I like a book that shows a time in history when the characters experience challenges, some of which we can relate to.

    1. I never knew about this, and yes...they definitely faced challenges.

      Thanks for commenting, Laurel.

  5. This seems amazing! Your review makes it sounds like Hazel Gaynor captured WII perfectly!

    1. Hazel Gaynor did a marvelous job of describing events.

      Thanks for your comment, Bookworm blog.