In All the Courage We Have Found, Carly Schabowski brings us a tale of adventure, bravery and fear that celebrates those trying to survive across Europe during The Second World War.
Written through three perspectives, our main character, Kasia, travels to France to support the allied resistance as a radio operator. She is joined on her travels by a young Polish girl who will not utter a single word. Her brilliant mind and skill as a codebreaker make her the perfect addition to the resistance, but more is hidden in Kasia’s past, encouraging her to get to France and find those she has lost.
Through this mission, Kasia and her silent ward stay with Hugo, a writer and winemaker who spends his days largely ignoring the war going on around him with a steady stream of women and alcohol. Each character is consumed by grief of the past, some through the loss of war, others stretching beyond that. As they begin to accept each other, a growing web of secrets and grief gives way to questions of how and if our newly formed team will learn to live with the past.
Schabowski explores the resistance and lifestyle of those living in Europe throughout The Second World War, but she does so in a humane way. Instead of solely focusing on the excitement of espionage, she offers a beautiful tribute to what life would have felt like during this period. Making sure that the many losses and dangers of this period are tangible and serve to remind readers how deeply people continued to hold these experiences in their memories and the impact of this on the future of rebuilding when the opportunity eventually came.
The most impressive thing about this story is how much heart Schabowski works into the narrative and characters alike. It is impossible not to find yourself rooting for them through all their flaws, mistakes and struggles.
The slow growth of friendship and the ups and downs of bonding that creates the relationships between Kasia, ‘Elodie’, and Hugo is something we experience as we live with the characters and learn their backstories. There is a slow build as they learn to trust one another and often themselves again, which leads to such genuine connections. Gradual development like this gives way to relatable characters and relationships between them that feel complex and engaging.
At its core, All the Courage We Have Found is a story of survival. Though it touches on different forms of resistance used to avoid German power, the exploration of memory and the main characters’ personal journeys is the story’s most crucial aspect. It is a vital reminder that when we look through the lens of history, the most important thing for us all to remember is that these stories and events were felt and experienced by real people, with emotions and memories as colourful and authentic as our own. Schabowski reminds us of this simple lesson in this impactful work of fiction.