Crooked Heart - Lissa Evans - atmospheric WW2 drama



From Goodreads: 

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… 

My Review:

A completely captivating and utterly charming read. Set amidst the uncretainty and struggle of world war 2 it tells the story of young orphan, Noel, an unprepossessing lad who has few friends, sticking out ears and a love of books and an extensive vocabulary which can make him come across as pompous.

Noel has spent his formative years being brought up by his revered Aunt Mattie an opinionated ex suffragette. Watching her slide into senile dementia is a step too far for Noel and he becomes even more insular, meaning that when he is evacuated from London, he is one of the least likely youngsters to be placed in a warm and caring home. He ends up being billeted with the disorganised and brash Vee who always has an eye for making a penny or two (not always strictly above board) and her willingness to accept Noel into her home initially stems from an idea for a money making scam.

In this none too homely billet live Vees mother, with selective mutism who spends her days writing lengthy letters to people in power criticising the war efforts, and including irrelevant facts about her life.

Also her son Donald, thoroughly unlikeable, but the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and he too has his eye on the main chance - to profiteer from the war.

Vee and Noel thrown together form a formidable duo and when they combine efforts they begin to have a grudging respect for one another.

I like Vee, I thought she had a hard life and was making the best of things. The wartime descriptions seem accurate and very atmospheric, I really felt as though I was there in the public air raid shelters and creeping about in the blackout with my barely there torch.

I shed a little tear towards the end and for me, even though its a quick read it had something of the Book thief about it, I've also seen it compared to Goodnight Mr Tom and I agree if you enjoyed that book you'll probably love this also - I did and will be looking for more books by this, hitherto unknown to me, author.

My thanks to Netgalley for feeding my E-reader with this review copy.


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