Crooked Heart – Lissa Evans
When Noel Bostock – aged ten, no family – is evacuated from London to escape the Blitz, he ends up living in St Albans with Vera Sedge – thirty-six and drowning in debts and dependents. Always desperate for money, she’s unscrupulous about how she gets it.
Noel’s mourning his godmother, Mattie, a former suffragette. Brought up to share her disdain for authority and eclectic approach to education, he has little in common with other children and even less with Vee, who hurtles impulsively from one self-made crisis to the next. The war’s thrown up new opportunities for making money but what Vee needs (and what she’s never had) is a cool head and the ability to make a plan.
On her own, she’s a disaster. With Noel, she’s a team.
Together they cook up an idea. Criss-crossing the bombed suburbs of London, Vee starts to make a profit and Noel begins to regain his interest in life.
But there are plenty of other people making money out of the war and some of them are dangerous. Noel may have been moved to safety, but he isn’t actually safe at all…
Thanks to Alison Barrow for bringing Crooked Heart to my attention and providing a copy for review.
Sometimes I get the chance to read books I would not normally have considered or that would not have appeared on my radar. After I began blogging I started seeking out new reading experiences, new genre, new authors and plots that don’t always involve solving a murder.
Take Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans: I finished it this morning on my train journey to work. I really enjoyed it and was disappointed when I found that I had reached the end of the last page. It was an enchanting story about people living during the Second World War. The central characters are likeable and quirkily mis-matched. They live under the constant threat of an attack by Hitler’s soldiers yet their daily struggles are much more relevant and worrying.
We follow Noel through the story, we see him lose his Godmother and then be evacuated from London to the country. He is housed with Vee, a struggling mother with a ‘useless’ son and an eccentric mother – Vee is trying to keep her sanity in a household where she has to do everything and is receiving no help from family or neighbours.
Although Noel and Vee are the stars in Crooked Heart there is a brilliantly established supporting cast. We hiss at Vee’s son who is a workshy layabout, gnash our teeth at Noel’s aunt and uncle who are ‘doing their bit’ but don’t want saddled with a difficult 10 year old. Noel’s teacher and classmates are used to highlight Noel’s non-conformity and we have the one ‘true’ villain – an Air Raid warden that considers looting to be a job perk. Real people living out life during the time of the blitz – totally absorbing reading.
Crooked Heart is a story about friendship, families and love – against the backdrop of the Second World War. It has replaced Carrie’s War as the book I will think of when I imagine life for a child during WW2. I loved the story of Noel and Vee, they came across as two misfits, not quite fitting the expectations of those around them and not really caring they are different. The last page was heart breaking and poignant and the journey to that point made it so. Crooked Heart is highly recommended.
Crooked Heart is published in Hardback by Doubleday and is available now. Follow Lissa Evans on Twitter @LissaKEvans