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How To Be Brave

Published Date: 20th March 2015

Available in


August 2015
September 2015
September 2015


All the stories died that morning … until we found the one we’d always known.

 When nine-year-old Rose is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, Natalie must use her imagination to keep her daughter alive. They begin dreaming about and seeing a man in a brown suit who feels hauntingly familiar, a man who has something for them. Through the magic of storytelling, Natalie and Rose are transported to the Atlantic Ocean in 1943, to a lifeboat, where an ancestor survived for fifty days before being rescued. Poignant, beautifully written and tenderly told, How To Be Brave weaves together the contemporary story of a mother battling to save her child’s life with an extraordinary true account of bravery and a fight for survival in the Second World War. A simply unforgettable debut that celebrates the power of words, the redemptive energy of a mother’s love … and what it really means to be brave.

‘Beautifully written, intelligent and moving, this book will stay with you long after you reach the end’
Ruth Dugdall

‘Two family stories of loss and redemption intertwine in a painfully beautiful narrative. This book grabbed me right around my heart and didn’t let go’ Cassandra Parkin

‘An amazing story of hope and survival … a love letter to the power of books and stories’
Nick Quantrill

‘Louise Beech is a natural born storyteller and this is a wonderful story’
Russ Litten

‘This book tells the story of Rose and her mother, Natalie, who are trying to cope with Rose’s newly diagnosed, and very serious, illness. With the help of a diary she discovers, Natalie begins to tell Rose the tale of a group of men battling to survive on the Atlantic ocean in a lifeboat with limited food and water. This is a moving and richly drawn novel, and fine storytelling in its purest form. With lilting, rhythmic prose that never falters How to be Brave held me from its opening lines. I found myself as eager to return to the story of Colin, Ken and their companions on their boat in 1943 as Rose herself was! Louise Beech masterfully envelops us in two worlds separated by time yet linked by fierce family devotion, bravery and the triumph of human spirit. Wonderful.’
Amanda Jennings

Top 3 books of 2015, Trip Fiction

Best Books of the Year, Nick Quantrill, BritCrime

Top Books of 2015, Being Anne Reading 

Top 10 Books of 2015, Steph’s Book Blog

Top books of 2015, Liz Loves Books

Top Reads of 2015 Good Practice

TV interview, Estuary TV


Short story in Autumn edition of People’s Friend 


Louise Beech has always been haunted by the sea, and regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show. This is her first book.


Online Reviews

‘Part autobiography, part fiction, How To Be Brave essentially defies conventional categorisation. The two narratives are split by time, gender, circumstance and a hundred other things, but first time author, Louise Beech blends them effortlessly. Despite logic dictating the outcome of one story strand, it is delightfully easy to be drawn in and become heavily invested in everything going on.’ Jack Croxall 

‘This is a yellow brick road of a novel that when it delivers you home will have you seeing all the people you care about anew, in glorious Technicolour. The stories are authentically told, in fact they are rooted in the author’s family history, and the characters are so real that they speak to anyone who knows what it is to be alone and what it means to be connected to others. How to Be Brave shares the same magic that Ray Kinsella’s “Field of Dreams” possessed. It makes you want to snuggle up with your own children in a book nook and hold them close. It makes you want to return to your own childhood and hear stories from your parents and grandparents of times when they were young, before you knew them. Colin’s story is exceptional and Natalie and Rose’s story is moving, but they are windows to our own stories too.’ Live Many Lives

Writing as Therapy, Feature in Writers & Artists

‘The two threads of the story are cleverly interwoven, the historical aspects are stunningly intuitive and with a highly engaging sense of place and time – a novel of two intensely emotional halves creating an incredible whole. Yes it is emotionally resonant, you will cry but it is also brave, true and utterly compelling, a cliffs edge read where you are waiting for that moment then realise that the whole darn thing is THAT moment.’ Liz Loves Books

Interview on Hull Kingston Radio

Interview on Hull Kingston Radio at Book Launch

‘Exquisitely written with storytelling of pure beauty, this debut novel is like nothing I’ve read before. Highly engaging and compelling, Louise’s writing is sharp and astute, wise to the emotions built through a mother-daughter relationship. How To Be Brave is a truly unforgettable novel. An extraordinary debut – emotionally driven, finely written and highly compelling.’ Reviewed the Book

‘This book though offers up a second true story, based around her own struggle to get her daughter to take her life-saving diabetic medication, by promising her a story before she would take it. Add into the mix a story of a book bringing family members back together after decades apart and you have a true fairy-tale like story of epic proportions which must see this book gain the success it surely deserves.’ Report on launch of How To Be Brave by Ian Judson

Louise Beech talks about her inspiration for How to be Brave Junior Diabetes Newsletter ‘Storytelling saved my daughter’s life’

‘How To Be Brave is a book about hope, courage, acceptance and love. The two story strands overlap seamlessly and the book is exceptionally well planned and well executed … an amazing debut’ Victoria Goldman, Off-the-Shelf-Books

‘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! … 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’ Louise Wykes, guest blog review

‘The writing is simply beautiful – quite effortless prose, full of emotion, totally engrossing whichever strand of the story you may be immersed in. The relationships are perfectly drawn … It’s a wonderful story about what bravery really is, the power of words and stories, full of immense sadness, but full of hope and suffused with love. I was absolutely enthralled by this book from beginning to end, with scenes that will stay in my memory for a very long time – whether it’s Rose injecting her bruised flesh, Natalie and her mallet, the lead shark following Colin’s lifeboat, or the simple reading of the daily prayer. Quite wonderful’ Anne Williams, Being Anne Reading

‘Ms Beech has written an amazing story. A story of survival, of struggle, of bravery and hope. But mostly, it is a story of unconditional love, the best cure for every pain and disease. ‘ Cause sometimes the only help you can give is love, and love is the only thing you need when in pain. Love says that you are not alone, and I hope that this books won’t stand alone on Ms Beech’s bookshelf, there will be many more from her writing pen in future’ Chick Cat Library Cat

‘With a hint of ghost story, mixed up with contemporary, up to the minute narrative and a good dose of wartime history, How To Be Brave is a very special, unique and quite beautiful story.  The stories are blended to perfection, the author masterfully and seamlessly knits them together resulting in a hugely satisfying, intelligent and emotional creation’ Anne Cater, Random Things through my Letterbox

‘Prepare for tissues. You would never think that a story of illness merged with a story of sailors abandoned at sea would work but this does and more. It is about how one story can inspire hope in another and how bravery and grit comes in many different forms. A poor young girl with Type 1 diabetes and her mother who tries everything in addition to her treatment, to try and make things better. How heartwarming a story and how brave to use another story of survival against the odds. Shock and illness can make you feel alone, isolated and shut away from the outside world so to bring in someone who has endured these feelings albeit in a different way works so well. Remarkably this is based on true fact and the image on the front cover shows the men in the boat in between the healing hands of mother and daughter. Remarkable. The power of stories really can change the world’ The Booktrail

‘Beautifully written … This exceeded my expectations and was a deeply touching read about a mother’s love, family history and above all bravery.’ Charlene Jess

‘The book’s title is deceptive – as it makes it sound rather like a self-help manual. Whilst it may prove to be of help to many – it is nothing so pedestrian. It is intriguing, deftly crafted and captivating. Not only that, but here is a story about stories which bears testament to the transformative power of stories. I have a feeling that I have not read this book for the last time.’ Richard Littledale

Debut Spotlight! Interview for Shaz’s Book Blog

‘The reader lives the ordeals of the child, the mother while witnessing the horrors of the relentless 50 days’ battle in the sea. There are mystic elements of the metaphysical is this book too, especially Beech’s writing of how Colin, the grandfather long gone, reaches out from beyond. This is a book that could easy have fallen into slush sentimentality or even elements of the ridiculous. It avoids these traps beautifully with simple, effective and beautifully descriptive prose.’ Brian Lavery

‘Based on family accounts, letters, and newspaper articles together with her imagination, Louise has crafted a beautifully written novel using her grandfather Colin’s story and her own personal experience with her daughter’s illness. An absolute joy to read … Louise is a natural storyteller’ My Reading Corner

Author interview: Jera’s Jamboree

‘This is a story woven from the author’s personal experience and is one of hope despite devastating challenges. It matters little if Colin actually appeared to them; his story inspired and it is that which was needed at such a difficult time. The initial build up set a scene necessary for understanding; when finished a powerful story lingers.’ Jackie Law, Never Imitate

Q&A with Louise Beech
With Janet Emson, From First Page to Last

‘It’s not enough that the story is (almost) true though. It’s also beautifully, poetically written. When I imagined our storytelling evening on Orkney this was the kind of lyricism and all-enveloping nature that I had in mind. Something that would take me away from where I was and transform me to a different time and place. Something that would reinforce the power of a good story, well told, to help change thoughts and actions. The book also explores the idea that memory can become part of a family’s DNA with descendants feeling the experiences of their parents and grandparents. It’s a fascinating but necessarily all too brief introduction to the topic which is currently being explored in relation to the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors.’ Louise Reviews

‘Beautifully and thoughtfully written’ Trip Fiction

‘Part fiction, part biography, this story can’t be pigeon-holed into any particular genre. Louise Beech writes beautifully as she switches between now and WW2 with her fabulous story of survival, love that spans generations and amazing bravery all topped with a sprinkling of a ghost story and a suggestion of time travel’ Helen Boyce

‘I loved this book!  The mix of fact, fiction and memoir were perfect, and the stories of lives intertwined were gripping from the first page to the last.  There were few characters, so easy to follow, and those characters were very skilfully portrayed.  Despite the subject matter it was an uplifting book overall, though the hardship both on the lifeboat, and in getting accustomed to diabetes are clearly portrayed.  Hope shines through.’ Emma B Books

Short story in Irish Times

How To Be Brave is an eye-opening book, which is beautifully written. It’s one of those novels where the characters will stay with you long after you have finished reading it. A highly recommended read’ Sarah Hardy

‘Rarely has a book touched me the way that How to Be Brave has. Louise Beech has written a debut novel that will live long in this reviewer’s memory and for those who have read it, for those who are going to read this and I urge you to do just that, your heart will be taken by the sheer natural brilliance of the writing’ Last Word Reviews

‘I will start by saying everything about this book is absolutely beautiful. Initially I was drawn in by the distinctive and quite stunning visual on the cover. I was also fascinated by the outline of the story and wondered how it was possible to merge the past with the present. Rest assured it works, it really, really works.’ Reflections of a Reader

‘This was a strange story for me, moving and emotional. It is about learning to be brave, with whatever life throws at you. A story of hope’ Northern Crime

‘This is an absolutely beautiful book. I’m not a fan of split narratives, however in this instance the alternating between past and present worked wonderfully. I’m also not a frequent reader of paranormal, yet again Beech masterfully knitted this into the narrative with perfection. Beech’s writing is stunning, penetrating.’ The Discerning Reader 

‘I think it’s impossible to encounter this story without being affected by it. I’m finding it difficult to convey how fabulous the writing is – as Louise Beech has left me, to quote her, ‘speechless, full of silent words’ and not a few tears. Given that Louise Beech has based her debut on her grandfather’s diaries and it is grounded in fact, following her own child’s illness, I think her grandfather would be immensely proud of what she’s achieved in creating a book that will stay with readers, and listeners, for a very long time’ Linda’s Book Bag

Louise Beech interviewed in the Irish Times

‘I adored this novel. I don’t think I’ve cried so much over a book since reading Charlotte’s Web, when I was about six years old! How To Be Brave will definitely be one of my top ten books of the year. It’s a hard act to follow’ Stephanie J. Roth, Book Likes

‘How To Be Brave tackles the subject of grief and hardship in such a wonderfully unique way. Each word feels magical and makes the story more captivating. Even in describing something ugly, Louise manages to use such beautiful, captivating language. For example: “One wound cut his face almost in two, like a forward slash dividing lines of poetry.” This kind of writing appears throughout the book and adds to that bittersweet undercurrent that runs throughout. Louise couldn’t have written a more perfect debut novel, and her talented team at Orenda Books have a real masterpiece here. 100% my favourite book of the year.’ Words Are My Craft

‘I was gripped both by the journey of nine year old Rose as she slowly comes to terms with her medical condition and Colin as he battles to survive, against all odds, in the shark-ravaged oceans. A unique, stunningly related tale which I would whole-heartedly recommend to anyone’ Rebecca Stonehill

‘The writing is incredibly evocative, I felt like I was sitting along side Rose and Natalie’s relative. I could feel the the boat rising and falling on the waves, taste the thick flesh of the all too rare raw fish on my thickened thirsty tongue and feel the intense heat of the sun as I lay exposed to the elements with the other crew members, as they grew weaker with each passing day’ Pam Reader

‘A beautifully written story of a mother’s fight to support her daughter against all the odds. Highly recommended’ Jane Isaacs (author)

‘Beech employs a touch of magic as the suffering Colin and the frightened Rose reach across the years to help each other to be brave, but the author is at her best when she’s describing the agonies of the shipwrecked men drifting on the empty sea. It’s a gentle book, full of emotion, suitable for young readers, and it’s similar in tone to The Book Thief, a book that Rose reads with a torch under the bedclothes.’ The Irish Times

‘Every so often a book will come along and will seep its way into your heart right from the very beginning. You’ll instantly connect with the main protagonists and it will leave you feeling completely overwhelmed by how much it has affected you. For me, this was the effect that How To Be Brave by Louise Beech had on me’ Segnalibro

How to be Brave is a poignant and well-written novel that has, as its theme, the healing power of stories, whether they are true or fictional, and the bonds that exist both between family members and between other people life throws together. The complexity and power of the mother-daughter relationship, which is at the heart of the book, is especially moving. There are books that we read just to provide a diversion and there are books that add something to our lives. How to Be Brave is one of the latter.’ Safie Maken Finlay

Interview with Louise Beech – Portobello Book Blog

Louise visits two prisons as part of English PEN’s Life Stories programme

‘How to be brave is a heartwarming and heart wrenching story all mixed in together … beautiful storytelling; it’s amazing that this is the author’s debut!’ Claire Knight

‘The whole book is a marrying of two very large chunks of truth and a dollop of imagination to stitch together Colin’s story and Louise’s experiences of coming to terms with a child diagnosed with Diabetes. It makes the book a very good read and one that should get onto the Book Club circuit quite quickly if it hasn’t already’ The Library Door

‘This is a book of love, survival, hope and most of all the endurance of the human spirit’ Reading Writes

‘This book is engrossing on so many levels. I recognise the newly diabetic child and the anxious parent from my time in Scouting, I recognise the fear from my time as a parent. I can imagine the sailors story from my history researches and my own knowledge (and fear) of the sea.  The love of books and reading shared by mother and daughter is one I tried (and failed miserably) to pass on to my sons. Maybe if I had a book corner to snuggle into with fairylights I may have had more success. One to ponder when grandchildren come along perhaps. As I said, this book made me cry. For the right reasons. A triumph of love and hope over adversity, of knowing that “ we don’t get less scared, we just find it easier to admit it when we have been as brave as we can.”’ Thinking of You and Me

‘I was gripped, as I was by another story about survival in a lifeboat, by Colin’s account of those harrowing weeks at sea. I liked how Louise Beech drew out the parallels between them in the hunger and thirst and the need for self-discipline; in Colin’s case not to succumb to the temptation of slaking his thirst with seawater, in Rose’s enduring the needles that leave her body bruised’ Anne Goodwin

‘The story is vivid, the descriptions first class. I was completely engaged with it and soon began to plan my day so that I could devote time to reading it. A top quality read’ Matt Johnson

Appeared on BBC Radio Humberside, talking about her book:

Look North (East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire) – Evening News

‘Touching, skillfully crafted and sometimes challenging and horrifying, the author takes the reader on a voyage of discovery, one that lingers in the mind after reading. I was particularly enthralled by Colin’s harrowing tale but Natalie and Rose’s story was equally compelling. A fantastic debut novel!’ Goodreads

A beautiful and inspiring semi-autobiographical tale of the real life struggles faced by members of a family separated by time and three generations who somehow and utterly believably manage to cross through the divides of time to console each other during a time of great crisis in each of their lives … This book was exceptional and time transistions were smooth and seamless and I was equally fascinated and captivated by both the present day narrative of survival and the one from the past. This book is one that will stay with me in my memory. Really exceptional writing. 5* Mrs Bloggs Books

‘I found the novel to be brilliantly structured. The Chapters are divided into two separate stories; first Natalie and Rose’s point of view, with the author showing how they comprehend diabetes as an illness, and the negative effects it can have; and secondly of their grandfather and great-grandfather Colin’s story of being lost at sea.You can tell how much effort and thought went into the publishing of this book, especially in terms of conjoining the narratives, and it clearly pays off given how fluent the experience of reading it is.’ Cuckoo Review

‘The story from Colin’s diary was gripping and emotional. Sure, it had its tragic moments, but it was all so beautifully written that I didn’t mind one bit. I captured many quotes while I was reading, which is something I hadn’t done in a very long time … A wonderful and touching novel that everyone should read. An original book that is both inspiring and important.’ The Misstery