Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

World War II books seem to be everywhere these days. It is a war that has captured the popular imagination in a way no other war in the twentieth century seems to have done. Like all wars before and after it, it didn't just affect those on the battlefield or in government, it had a profound effect on the general population. And for those in the path of the fighting and the bombs, it was forever life-altering. In Lissa Evans' brilliant novel, Crooked Heart, an orphaned evacuee from London and a debt-ridden suburban scam artist come together and are forever changed.

Ten year old Noel Bostock lives with his godmother Mattie in Hampstead Heath. An intelligent and unusual bookish child, he's been raised unconventionally by his elderly suffragette guardian. When Mattie starts exhibiting signs of senile dementia, Noel fills in the blanks for her, learns to cook, and keeps her secret. But when she wanders away one winter night, he is sent to live with Mattie's cousin and his wife, a couple who are kind enough but really have no room in their lives for a grieving young boy. It is a relief to them when Noel must be evacuated from London like the rest of the city's children. Sent to St. Alban's, not far from London, the serious child with jug handle ears and a limp from a bout of polio as a baby lands with the not always entirely honest Mrs. Vera Sedge, her lazy son Donald, and her dependent, mute mother Flora.

Vee only chooses to take Noel in on a spur of the moment whim--she'll receive money monthly for his upkeep--but immediately regrets her decision as she realizes she'll have to also provide and care for him. She worries that he'll also interfere with her money making schemes, no matter that they generally fail miserably anyway. Instead Vee and Noel become a team. With his brains and her action, their scam of collecting money for invented wartime charities is going a treat. Meanwhile the otherwise unremarkable Donald is up to his own dangerous tricks. And Vee's mother Flora stays busy writing hilarious, chatty missives to government officials about the illegal goings on inspired by the war and morale killers as she sees them.

Evans has written a wonderfully entertaining novel. Her characters are complete and engaging, even when they are up to no good. The growing connection between Noel and Vee is touching to watch, especially as this waif with nowhere else to go is the first person to treat Vee with any dignity and respect at all. Noel is an odd duck but he's heartwarming for all his eccentricities and the reader cannot help but feel sympathy for him both in the loss of his godmother and in his naive outrage over the small scale immoralities allowed by war (his and Vee's not included). There is a deliciously sly wit that threads through the narrative and shines through in unexpected places. This is a lovely novel of friendship, caring, and moral implications only partially hidden underneath a delightfully humorous story of bumbling ineptness, petty scams, and war. Thoroughly recommended.

For more information about Lissa Evans and the book, check out her website or follow her on Twitter. Takes a look at the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. My mother was born in a small town in Switzerland, and she and her cousins had many stories to tell of things that happened during WWII.

  2. Wow, this sounds like a unique and highly engaging story - I'm looking forward to reading it!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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