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Crooked Heart


Crooked Heart

Ten-year-old Noel Bostock lives with his godmother Mattie in London. Despite no family of his own, he’s quite content there. But one evening, Mattie wanders off, probably a result of her worsening dementia. With the threat of German bombs looming, Noel is evacuated to St. Alban’s, what is hoped will be a safe place.

Vera Sedge, a scheming woman in her mid-30s, takes him in, seeing it as an opportunity to make some much-needed cash, for she will get a stipend in exchange for opening her home to an evacuee. What she doesn’t count on is her growing fondness for the lad. Her own son, Donald, plays on his questionable weaknesses and her actual ones, causing her more heartache and woe than joy. He seems to be the reason they have to move so frequently. Vee keeps trying to find some sort of financial stability, taking in sewing, finding the odd pence where she can.

"CROOKED HEART is an endearing novel that will have you laughing and moaning in the same paragraph. Despite your best efforts, you will fall in love with this strange duo."

However, when she sees Noel with no one offering him shelter, she realizes that he might bring her some small fortune. And, really, Noel is an exceptional boy; clever, smart and resourceful, he can teach Vee how to fine-tune her schemes. The young fellow can point out the rough spots in her ideas. Together, they hit the streets and begin collecting some serious coin.

As we all know, though, ill-gotten gains have a way of disappearing, especially when there’s someone like Donald living in the same house. Not one to earn a living honestly himself, he has his own troubles to worry about, troubles that unfortunately follow him right back home. Now, not only does Vee have Noel and the air raids to concern herself with, her son has gotten himself in deep with some very bad people. That’s where the teamwork between woman and boy comes in handy, for Noel and Vee have learned to complement each other. Where one has the glimmer of a plan, the other figures out how to implement it. And so they do.

Set in the midst of the Blitz, this odd pair comes across as absurd and comical at times, but the situations quickly sober up with strafing gunfire or the appearance of gaping craters in the cobbles the next morning.

“None of the remaining houses in the street had any glass in the windows, or much in the way of roof slates, but there were still people living in them. One woman was scrubbing her doorstep, looking quite cheerful. Mrs. Connell in the next bed at the hospital had informed Vee that it was good luck to have a bomb in your street, since the Germans never dropped two in the same place.”

CROOKED HEART is an endearing novel that will have you laughing and moaning in the same paragraph. Despite your best efforts, you will fall in love with this strange duo. Vee is a true piece of work, right from the beginning, constantly on the lookout for a way to fleece someone out of a sixpence or two. That must be why Noel came along when he did: to set her back on the right road. For, while he helps to aid and abet in her criminal enterprises, he shows her what compassion looks like and the importance of caring. With these unforgettable characters, it’s a quickly read book that will linger long after the end.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on July 31, 2015

Crooked Heart
by Lissa Evans

  • Publication Date: July 5, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0062364847
  • ISBN-13: 9780062364845