Monday, August 10, 2015

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans


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, 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 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. . . .

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published November 6th 2014 by Doubleday (first published August 14th 2014)
ISBN 0385614330 (ISBN13: 9780385614337)

About the Author

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.

Check out the author on her website
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My Thoughts
She was losing words.
This unusual story opens with Noel living with his godmother Mattie, although I don’t think the book ever addresses how he came to be living with Mattie, what happened to his parents, or Mattie’s relation to his parents. However the bond between Mattie and Noel is evident. Noel is bright and inquisitive, and he possesses wisdom and understanding beyond his years. Part of this has to do with Mattie's unorthodox style of parenting. She is a bit of a "free thinker", and has always pushed Noel to question the status quo. I found Noel very likable right from the beginning. He is a brave and resourceful sort, taking whatever life throws at him and making the best of it. When WWII gears up and there is word of Hitler's troops heading their way, Noel is one of the 3.5 million civilians who are evacuated by train out of London to outlying areas deemed safer.
He didn't want to be sitting here, in this hot metal box. He didn't want to be anywhere; the world felt like a horsehair vest that he couldn't remove.
Noel arrives in St. Albans, where he is taken in by Vee. Vee will do whatever she has to do to survive in life. She gets quite crafty, deciding to take in Noel who appears to walk with a limp, with dreams of financial assistance for doing so. Instead it turns to be Noel who has the mind for crafting "schemes" that keep the family housed and fed. Vee and Noel share a home with Vee's son Donald, who himself is thought to be disabled (but is really just spoiled) and Vee's mother.

Vee is not initially very likable. She is dogged and tough, commits unethical acts to get by. Life has let her down, and she's never figured out how to pick herself up. 
The first time he'd ever seen her he'd thought of a magpie, but now she seemed more like a pigeon, drab and directionless, pecking at anything that looked as if it might be edible.
Then along comes Noel, who is really the stronger of the two. He is the type of kid that is just plain odd. He's very bright and lives inside his own head. That means that other kids don't like him, and he tends to make most adults uncomfortable. But occasionally someone will take notice and see something else in them (I think his teacher Mr. Waring eventually did this with him). And Vee eventually sees it, too.

This novel explores the difficulties of living in Britain during the war and The Blitz, with rationing and children being shipped away. It is a war novel without the war. You catch glimpses of the war, in the growl of an airplane overhead, the mention of a ration book, the blackouts, but in St. Albans they are relatively safe from the horrors of war. 

This is one of those quiet stories. It isn't rambunctious, exciting or edge-of-your-seat suspense. It's quiet and gentle. The writing is very easy to read, but it could get a little clipped at times for my taste.

The relationship between Vee and Noel grows throughout the story, and in the end I think they sort of save one another. I love the imagery used throughout the story, particularly in the way that Noel looks at the world. At one point he is talking of a wooden puzzle he'd been given of a street of houses with removable facades, so that you can see what is happening behind the walls, windows and doors. could see cooks in kitchens, children in nurseries, a lady brushing her hair, a gentleman reading a newspaper. It revealed a world of calm and quiet activity, whereas the truth was that you never knew, when you lifted the flap, who you'd find hitting whom, who'd be crying in the corner, who'd be steeling themselves to jump from a window. There were bombs outside, but inside was worse.
I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:
Tuesday, July 28th: 100 Pages a Day … Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Wednesday, July 29th: BookNAround
Thursday, July 30th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, July 31st: From the TBR Pile
Monday, August 3rd: Raven Haired Girl
Tuesday, August 4th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Wednesday, August 5th: A Bookworm’s World
Thursday, August 6th: Dwell in Possibility
Monday, August 10th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, August 12th: Cold Read
Thursday, August 13th: The Book Binder’s Daughter
Monday, August 17th: Doing Dewey
Tuesday, August 18th: Kissin Blue Karen
Wednesday, August 19th: FictionZeal
Thursday, August 20th: Bilbiophiliac
Friday, August 21st: For the Love of Words

My final word: Unadorned and restrained, there was something wistful about this story. It felt sentimental and at times a little morose. But I thought it was a sweet war novel. It is about friendship and what defines (or redefines) family. I would wholeheartedly recommend this one when looking for a quiet read with real characters.

Buy Now:
Barnes and Noble

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release. 

1 comment:

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

I really enjoy stories set during war that aren't specifically ABOUT war, stories that give a glimpse into everyday life.

Thanks for being a part of the tour.