Hardcover: 288 pages
• Publisher: Harper (July 28, 2015)
Paper Moon meets the Blitz in this original black comedy set in World War II England, chronicling an unlikely alliance between a small-time con artist and a young orphan evacuee.
When Noel Bostock—aged ten, no family—is evacuated from London to escape the Nazi bombardment, he lands in a suburb northwest of the city with Vera Sedge—a thirty-six-year-old widow 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. Wise beyond his years and raised with a disdain for authority and an eclectic attitude toward education, he has little in common with other children, and even less with the impulsive Vee, who hurtles from one self-made crisis to the next. The war’s provided unprecedented 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 a scheme. Crisscrossing the bombed suburbs of London, Vee starts to turn a profit and Noel begins to regain his interest in life. But there are plenty of other people making money off the war—and some of them are dangerous. Noel may have been moved to safety, but he isn’t actually safe at all.
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Two lost souls find each other in England during World War II. Ten year old Noel Bostock was raised by his godmother, Mattie, an eclectic soul and a suffragette. Mattie raised Noel her way, Noel does not fear authority and has a way of thinking to challenge most adults. When Mattie’s dementia worsens, Noel is left alone and is eventually sent to the countryside as an evacuee. Noel is taken in a Mrs. Vera Sledge, a widow who has one problem after another, especially with money. Vera takes up schemes to profit from the war, but she does even better when Noel offers up a thought out plan.
This was a very surprising read for me. At first, the setting captured me; London during war-time was a desperate place, rationing, air-raids, and bombings. All of these characters captured me right from the start, each is incredibly unique and very realistic; even the characters that may not be extremely likeable are still interesting and have their place. Noel is incredibly charming for a 10 year old boy; I love his way of thinking and his interactions with adults. The very unusual attribute of Mattie and Mrs. Gifford both being suffragists and both falling to the same disease and Noel’s relationship with them was touching. At first, Vera is not a woman that many would like, but as her relationship with Noel strengthens, her inner strength grows. For two people trying to survive in a difficult world and with difficult people, all Vera and Noel and need is each other.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Lissa Evans, a former radio and television producer, is the author of three previous novels, including Their Finest Hour and a Half, which was longlisted for the Orange Prize. Crooked Heart was also longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly known as the Orange Prize); it is her first novel to be published in the US. Evans lives in London with her family.
Find out more about Evans at her website, and follow her on Twitter.