Francesca Wade

Breathing Space

Be Safe I Love You


Virago 304pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Discharged from active service in Iraq, young officer Lauren Clay arrives home for Christmas at Watertown, New York, excited about ‘the promise of relief that would come from doing everyday things’. She expects to resume her role as provider for her family, but is taken aback to discover that her father, bed-bound with depression for years after her mother walked out, is cheerful and working again, while her goofy thirteen-year-old brother, Danny, no longer a dependent child, is absorbed in his own world of YouTube videos and instant messaging. Excused from responsibilities, both domestic and military, and free to pursue her promising singing career, Lauren finds herself scorning those whom she had left behind to enjoy ‘the lax, entitled way of soft civilian life’. She no longer relates sympathetically to her boyfriend, Shane, and her best friend, Holly: trying on dresses in the mall is a dark imitation of arming for battle, shooting down snow skyscrapers with remote-control planes a grotesque parody of her military duties. As the convincingly portrayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress take hold, Lauren is pursued by urgent calls from army psychologist Eileen Klein, who knows all too well that ‘home is not always the safest place for a returning warrior’.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,
    • 'We read from left to right and from start to finish. Or do we?' Stuart Hannabus considers the merits of reading i… ,
    • Domestic scandal, sexual abuse and serial killers are on the menu in April's crime round-up. revie… ,