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When We Were Young & Brave

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,310 ratings  ·  386 reviews
Their motto was to be prepared, but nothing could prepare them for war. . .

The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home sets her unforgettable new novel in China during WWII, inspired by true events surrounding the Japanese Army’s internment of teachers and children from a British-run missionary school.

China, December 1941. Having left an unhappy life in
Paperback, 448 pages
Published October 6th 2020 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published August 20th 2020)
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Made it as far as 40% and realised this really wasn’t bringing me joy. It’s not that the book is bad by any means but it felt like a YA novel and not what I was expecting. I enjoy historical fiction but this had no real bite to it and actually felt quite childish. .

I was drawn to this one by the premise of the story which is set in China 1n 1941. japan has just declared war on the Allies. Elspeth Kent is a teacher at the missionary school where 10 year old Nancy Plummer is a boarder. When the
Karren  Sandercock
Thanks to Edelweiss, HarperCollins and Hazel Gaynor for my copy of: When We Were Young & Brave.

China 1941, the children of Chefoo missionary school are eagerly looking forward to Christmas and it’s only a few weeks away. Elspeth Kent is one of the teachers at the school and she’s been seriously considering returning home to England. She has no idea that she will not be leaving China and she will be one of the main leaders to help guide her fellow teachers and students through years of Japanese o
Sep 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
5+ Favorite Reads of 2020 Stars

This one just made me so happy! Not because of the content, but for the feelings, I loved to connect to the characters in this one. I loved the way this book was structured, the atmosphere and characters, and I shed some tears! I’ve read several others by this author and they just get better and better!

Set in China during WWII at a British missionary school (Chefoo), this one has alternating chapters from Elspeth – a teacher at the school – and Nancy at 10-year-old
Oct 27, 2020 rated it liked it
My initial reaction when I finished reading this book was one of disappointment – not because the book was bad or anything like that, but rather, I had gone into this one with certain expectations and in the end, felt completely let down. This is mostly my fault, as I realize now that if I had read the premise more carefully, or had done a little research going in (which I typically do with historical fiction but didn’t with this one due to time constraints), it should’ve been pretty obvious tha ...more
Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews
Sep 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 eve
Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews

4.5 stars

Irish Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor returns with her new historical novel, The Bird in the Bamboo Cage. A compelling and heart rendering tale, The Bird in the Bamboo Cage relays a story of war, separation, friendship, hardship, loyalty, resilience, courage and strength. An unforgettable cast, a rich historical background and a vivid setting base defines this strong new novel from trusted author Hazel Gaynor.

Based in China in the early 1940s
Nov 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in China during WWII. An international school is taken over by the Japanese.

I hardly read books set in China but this was a good way to see another perspective of WWII from British and Americans living in China.

I think this book was intended for a YA audience. It was a little too nice and simple in spite of what must have been some seriously harrowing conditions.

That is not to say I didn’t enjoy the book because I did.

Although I found the phrase ‘ever so’ to be used ever so many times that
The story alternates between two first person narrators – Nancy Plummer and Elspeth Kent – providing the reader with different perspectives on the unfolding events. After all, the thoughts and feelings of a ten-year old girl are likely to be very different to that of an experienced teacher. What unites them is the value of friendship. I liked the way the friendship between Elspeth and fellow teacher, Minnie, grows, allowing them to share the past disappointments and tragedies in their lives. Sim ...more
Sep 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kathryn in FL
Fabulous Historical Novel set within a Japanese Prison Internment Camp during World War II

This story is focused upon three female students and their two female teachers in a coming of age story during a critical historical period. These children are studying at this boarding school because they are children of diplomats and missionaries during the late 1930's in China and surrounding countries. Shortly after the story begins, we meet three young girls aged eight and their two female teachers. W
Oct 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set during 1941, this 2020 publication weaves a story around the WWII internment of British students and teachers at Chefoo Missionary School in China. I am of two minds for rating this historical fiction novel. I liked having the story told using two perspectives, one from Elspeth Kent who is a teacher and the other from a student named Nancy. This is a character driven story. Having said that, the plot is incredibly slow moving and detailed. At the time I am composing this, there are only 248 ...more
Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
When we read books about children in World War II, they often deal with the internment camps in the United States, sending children to the countryside in England, or evacuating Jewish children to other countries. Hazel Gaynor presented a fresh focus by concentrating on a group of children studying at a school sponsored by the China Inland Mission. Most children belonged to diplomats or missionaries--mostly British but some Americans and other nationalities. When Japan declared war on the United ...more
Mairead Hearne (
‘Their motto was to be prepared, but nothing could prepare them for war. . .'

The Bird in the Bamboo Cage by Hazel Gaynor will be published August 20th with Harper Collins. It is a novel inspired by true events and is described as ‘an unforgettable novel about impossible choices and unimaginable hardship, and the life-changing bonds formed between a young girl and her teacher in a remote corner of a terrible war.’

It’s no secret that I love Hazel Gaynor’s writing so I just couldn’t put off sha
Cathy Ryan
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hazel Gaynor has taken a unique slant on Second World War fiction with her latest novel, The Bird in the Bamboo Cage. It was inspired by true events which took place following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As with all her books, the factual subject matter gives the story depth, authenticity and realism.

The story begins at the China Inland Mission School, Chefoo in the Shantung Province and is told from the perspectives of ten year old Nancy, a pupil at the school, and Elspeth Kent, one of
Fiction Addition Angela
This beautiful book will be in my thoughts for some time. This is a historical fictional novel wrote from the viewpoints of Nancy (Plum) a young girl and Elspeth Kent, Miss Kent, one of the teachers from the Chinese missionary. Both characters along with many more students and a handful of teachers are in a missionary school when Japan invade China during World War II
We hear the story of their internment in Weihsein camp and their six year nightmare while they are subject to the horrors of the J
Oct 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
A evocative historical fiction novel of courage, resourcefulness and friendships during the most traumatic of times.

Elsbeth Kent is a teacher at the Chefoo School, a missionary school in northern China and but is anxious to return home to England. But as she prepares to turn in her resignation, a terrible twist of fate determines a different path for Elspeth, and those children in her charge.

Ten-year-old Nancy Plummer, is a British student at Chefoo School, when Japan declares war on Br
Jennifer N
Nov 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love historical fiction and WWII is one of my favourite eras. What I love even more is when I learn something new. This is about a mostly British (some American and Canadians as well) school for children of missionaries in China. Once Pearl Harbour was bombed and war was declared with Japan it was too late to get the students and teachers home. At first they were occupied by Japanese soldiers and then they were interned in a camp. What they went through was terrifying and horrific since they w ...more
A leisurely and surprisingly gentle story, considering the subject matter. I loved reading about how the teachers and students banded together to survive a WWII prison camp. There were many touching moments and a cameo by Eric Liddell. The main character's introspection slowed things down and became a bit repetitive. Still, five stars for this sentimental memoir-like historical fiction.
Davida Chazan
Oct 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edelweiss-arc
4.5/5 Stars! I knew nothing about the Japanese occupation of China during WWII, but this historical, women's, fiction novel really helped fill in that gap. Take a look at my #bookreview on my blog here ...more
Sep 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read a lot of WWII books and it was interesting to read one from a different perspective. The Bird in the Bamboo Cage is the story of the children of Chefoo School taken by the Japanese. Some parts dragged on a little in a way I just wanted something uplifting to happen to them, and then it did, which gives the reader hope that they will survive. The story alternates between a teacher and a student, and both stories are very atmospheric and captivating and I loved both voices. Fantastic story, ...more
Sarah Wagner
Aug 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*I received a copy of this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.*

Plenty of WWII-era historical fiction centers around the war in Europe, but this novel focuses on the experiences of British and American schoolchildren in China. Told from the alternating perspectives of a young schoolgirl and one of her teachers, the book chronicles the deteriorating living conditions of the group as the Japanese army arrives at their school and they are forced to relocate to an internment camp. Watched and
Emer (A Little Haze)
27th July 2020

I was provided with an unsolicited PDF ARC of this from HCIrl but after having read a number of pages have determined that this book is not to my taste and therefore will neither read nor review it.

This edition publishing Aug 20th, 2020 in the U.K. and 6th August in Ireland.

*An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher Harper Collins Ireland in exchange for an honest review*

For more reviews and book related chat check out my blog

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Karen M
Sep 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have to confess that I am drawn to books about World War II but I also have to admit that perhaps I’ve read too many in too short a time because I almost passed on this book until I realized it did not take place in Europe but in China. Now here was an area of WWII in which I had only read a couple of books so it suddenly seemed very appealing to me.

I’m so glad I read this book. I was a Girl Scout and I love the fact that the girls in this story find some of their strength and endurance becaus
Sep 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2020
4.25 stars
I was aware of the Japanese occupation of China during WWII because my Dad was a part of a Marine division, known as China Marines, who were sent to occupy northern China after Japan's surrender. I was not aware, however, that at the same time Japanese residents in the U.S. were being sent to internment camps, in Japanese-occupied China the Japanese were sending Westerners to their own camps. This is the story of the Chefoo school in northern China (a British-run school for children of
Explore the locations in the novel here

This is quite a remarkable story made even more so by the fact that it is based on true facts. The author has done so clever research here and taken the facts to thread together a story of human interest and emotions. I feel quite teary just thinking about how children must have felt being trapped in their school and threatened by the invading Japanese army. How their teachers made it into an adventure. My heart throbbed for each and every one of them.

A rem
Janet McClain
Aug 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The review is based upon an advance reader copy of the book. I was provided this book in exchange for an unbiased, honest review.

Their motto was to be prepared, but nothing could prepare them for war. . .

Once again, Hazel Gaynor has created a moving story. So many WWII historical fiction novels have focused on events in Great Britain and Europe. However, When We Were Young & Brave reminds us that war was also waged in other parts of our world. Based on true events, the story focuses on an inter
Susan Peterson
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
“Sometimes we needed remarkably little to see us through another day. Sometimes, we needed far more.”
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, its ramifications were felt across the globe, to include a missionary school in Chefoo, China, home to a group of children and their teachers. Far from their homes in England and the United States, separated from their parents, students and teachers alike must learn from each other how to survive each day with hope amid the despair, love along with cruelty
Emma Crowley
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is no two ways about it The Bird in the Bamboo Cage is quite simply the best book that Hazel Gaynor has ever written. It’s an absolute stunning read and even though the subject matter is tough, devastating and heart-breaking this book was written in such a beautiful way that it really opened my eyes to the traumas that occurred during the Japanese occupation of China and other areas in the Far East during World War Two. It’s evident right from page one that Hazel engaged in such in-depth r ...more
Oct 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
I really enjoy historical fiction - when it is done well. Unfortunately, despite what I believe to be her best efforts, Hazel Gaynor disappointed me greatly with this attempt. It's well written and the background, location and events are all interesting. But nothing happens! I'm serious. For the first 250 pages or more all we get is people fretting, worrying, lamenting and agonizing over their lives and existence. It was truly boring.

The author chose to tell this story in two first-person accoun
Oct 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
China, December 1941. Having left an unhappy life in England for a teaching post at a missionary school in northern China, Elspeth Kent is now anxious to return home to help the war effort. But as she prepares to leave China, a terrible twist of fate determines a different path for Elspeth, and those in her charge.

Ten-year-old Nancy Plummer has always felt safe at Chefoo School, protected by her British status. But when Japan declares war on Britain and America, Japanese forces take control of t
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Hazel Gaynor is an award-winning New York Times, USA Today, Irish Times, 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 THE SAVOY was shortlisted for the 201 Irish Book Awards, and THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER'S DAUGHTER was shortlisted for the 2019 HWA ...more

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