Oh, I'm telling you right up front that Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans is going to be one of my top reads for 2015! It's the height of WWII and England is on high alert. Ten year old orphan Neil Bostock is evacuated from London. He lands with Vee - a small time con artist with a good heart, but not great luck. Neil is educated, precocious and misses his suffragette Godmother Mattie terribly. Neil and Vee seem like an unlikely pairing. But 'war makes strange bedfellows.' And they might just have what the other needs..... Evans has created such tangible characters in Vee and Noel. My opinion of Vee changed as the book progressed - from dismissing her as a hustler, to getting to know her, to empathizing with her losses, and finally to cheering her on, hoping against hope that the ending I want would materialize. We get to know Noel slowly as he assesses his current situation and adapts as need be. I was immediately taken by him. Other supporting characters are just as interesting - I especially enjoyed the myriad letters that Vee's mute mother pens. Mattie makes only a brief appearance, but her presence is large in Noel's life and memories and we come to love her as much as he does. The wartime setting is also a character in Crooked Heart. The rationing, the attitudes, the bombings and more all shape, direct and change the course of Vee and Noel. Now, yes, there are sad situations, but.....Evans has a wickedly dark sense of humour that's quite appealing. Her sly wit is visible in a description, a look or a snippet of dialogue. Above all, Crooked Heart is entertaining. I read so many books and often find I can predict where a tale will go, or recognize a plot. I truly had no idea where Evans was going to take her tale. Initially, I took the moral high ground when confronted with Vee's scams. But, my opinion rapidly changed as I got to know Vee and Noel. I found myself soundly in their corner - and hoping they could scam the scammers. Evans nicely explores right and wrong through many characters and situations in Crooked Heart. And by the end, it's impossible to say that a little bit of wrong isn't a little bit right. I love books that speak to the human condition - life, love, death and everything that comes in between. This unlikely pair totally won my heart. I was sad to turn the last page. But satisfied, very satisfied. Crooked Heart is, well, heartwarming, heartbreaking and oh,so very good. Heartily recommended!
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5.75 x 5.25 x 0.50 Inches
Oh, Im telling you ri...
Noel, a ten year old b...
Noel, a ten year old boy, has been raised by his eccentric, ex-suffragette godmother Mattie. In addition to his normal schooling, Mattie always took the time to give what she referred to as "proper schooling" which included discussions on the obscure and essay topics that gave you more reasons to think such as "What Is Freedom?" and "All Things are Difficult Before They Are Easy". Mattie imbued in him her particular understanding of the world causing him to develop the most intriguing personality making him an immediate addition to my favorite quirky children in literature shelf. In addition to the impending war causing the residents of London and its outskirts to be constantly on their toes, Noel is attempting to handle the seriousness of Mattie's decline into senile dementia. Instead of evacuating London with the rest of the children, he opts to stay with Mattie to take care of her knowing that soon she's not going to be able to take care of him much longer let alone herself. The introduction of Noel and Mattie is fantastically succinct and encompasses the Prologue alone. It set an amazing tone and heightened expectations for the rest of the story. I'm so very pleased to say that it never disappointed and only continued to impress me. 'The day after that, all the children disappeared, as if London had shrugged and the small people had fallen off the edge.' On a particularly typical yet cold Winter night, Mattie decides to take a walk and doesn't come back home. Noel is now forced into evacuating and he's rounded up with several other children hoping to find families willing to take in another mouth to feed. Noel comes across as a shy, silent child but is actually in very deep mourning for the one person on this earth he truly loved. 'Reading felt effortful. It was odd to think that for years he had sucked up print without thinking. Since leaving Mattie's house, he hadn't finished a book. He couldn't follow a plot any more, the meaning seemed to bypass his brain, or else stuck to it briefly and then fell off when he turned the page, like an inadequately licked stamp.' He finds himself taken in by a middle-aged woman named Vee, for the sole reason of the money she's able to collect for taking him into her care. Right off the bat, her intentions aren't honorable, but considering Noel is never mistreated or anything of the like, she's easily forgiven. Vee's son Donny has a heart problem and is unable to contribute financially and her mother is unable to speak following an incident where she collapsed and hit her head after Vee first told her she was pregnant (and un-wed). Drastic times call for drastic measures and Vee begins grasping for any possible way to earn enough money to help her household survive. This is how she comes up with the idea of going door to door for donations, except there is no charity awaiting her collected coin; it's going straight into her own pocket. Noel, wrapped in the comfort of his mourning, regains a spark of life when he recognizes Vee's actions for what they are subsequently intriguing him enough to offer to help. He comes up with a better plan and together, the unlikeliest of duos use the War as an opportunity to survive. I really paced myself with this one, knowing early on it was going to be hard to say goodbye to this vibrant and original cast of characters. For a book that I picked up simply because it was related to World War II, it had surprisingly little to do with the actual war. It was rather a behind the scenes type look on what you would expect to encounter during wartime but never quite earns its own story. I loved how the story delves into what's morally right after the duo uncover a crime occurring where people's belongings are being stolen after they are forced to evacuate. Even though they are collecting for a charity that doesn't actually exist, these people are still giving willingly. Crooked Heart asks the question: is it better to take under false pretenses or to steal without their knowledge? Is one legally wrong and the other simply morally wrong? Crooked Heart, while also delving into the seriousness of war without going as far as to take us to the battle lines, is also instilled with a dark humor that I feel is most appropriate for that day and age. Because even though there is sadness that is saturated into every nook and cranny and hangs over the city like a pall, there's still some humor to be found and Evans characters use it as a coping mechanism to get through these trying times. Wonderful, wonderful novel, I'm so very glad I took the chance on this obscure little gem of a read.
Noel Bostock, a ten-ye...
Noel Bostock, a ten-year-old orphan who's just lost his godmother, and Vera Sedge, a widow with no marketable skills, face the struggles of life during the blitz of the Second World War. Circumstances throw the two together as Noel is evacuated and Vee becomes his guardian in exchange for a stipend and a ration book. The two are an unlikely pair; can precocious Noel and world-weary Vee create an alliance and find purpose for themselves in a dangerous world turned upside down? Alternately quirky, funny, and irresistible, this is a story about the struggles of life with the uncertainty and perils of war as a backdrop. The unfolding narrative, complex and charming, will tug heartstrings and remain with readers long after the book has been closed. Highly recommended.
This unusual story ope...
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. 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. 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. 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.
Hard to believe I coul...
Hard to believe I could find a novel about the London Blitz and WWII both heartwarming and at times ironically humorous. But I did and much of this is due to the author and her wonderful characterizations. I quickly fell in love with ten year old Noel, a precocious boy of unknown origins who was being raised by his suffragette and eccentric godmother, Mattie. Eventually he will be one of the children evacuated and taken in by a woman named Vee, who sees this as an opportunity to make some money. What is wonderful about this novel is how they characters change and grow throughout the novel, some for the better some for the worst. Yes, there are bombs falling, deaths and accidents, thievery and lost people but for the most part, Noel and Vee, their exploits, and their growth, propel this novel. Wonderful story about two people who find each other in an unusual time and in unusual circumstances. ARC from publisher.
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