Lissa Evans

Crooked Heart (Paperback)

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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, 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. . . .

Specifications

Series Title
Discworld
Publisher
HarperCollins
Book Format
Paperback
Original Languages
English
Number of Pages
304
Author
Lissa Evans
ISBN-13
9780062364845
Publication Date
July, 2016
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
9.00 x 6.00 x 1.50 Inches
ISBN-10
0062364847

Customer Reviews

Average Rating:(4.3)out of 5 stars
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Most helpful positive review
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars
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.
Most helpful negative review
Average Rating:(2.0)out of 5 stars
I could not get into t...
I could not get into this book. While historical fiction (and especially WWII based) is one of my favorite genres, I had a hard time following along with this story. I found myself re-reading the same passages over and over and not being able to remember why and how characters had interacted in the past. It was well-written, it just didn't have a deep plot or likable characters in my opinion.
Most helpful positive review
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars
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.
Most helpful negative review
Average Rating:(2.0)out of 5 stars
I could not get into t...
I could not get into this book. While historical fiction (and especially WWII based) is one of my favorite genres, I had a hard time following along with this story. I found myself re-reading the same passages over and over and not being able to remember why and how characters had interacted in the past. It was well-written, it just didn't have a deep plot or likable characters in my opinion.
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.
I could not get into this book. While historical fiction (and especially WWII based) is one of my favorite genres, I had a hard time following along with this story. I found myself re-reading the same passages over and over and not being able to remember why and how characters had interacted in the past. It was well-written, it just didn't have a deep plot or likable characters in my opinion.

Frequent mentions

1-5 of 24 reviews
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

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.

Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

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.

Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

This is a wonderful li...

This is a wonderful little tale about adapting and survival during the bombings of London in WWII. Even more, it is the tale of friendship and family that can come about during some of the worst circumstances when one is able to let go of losses and make the best of their circumstances. Young Noel has an ideal guardian and nurturer in his godmother, Mattie. After her death during the beginning of WWII, he struggles to find a place where he can be welcome and accepted for who he is. Vee has always struggled to make ends meet for her mother and son without the benefit of a husband. Her life has been one of disappointment and guilt. The war brings these two unlikely people together out of necessity, but the story details their slow connection that replicates family in many ways. This was a great read, and one that I won't soon forget. I was head over heals crazy for Noel, and I was touched by his kind heart and his willingness to pass that kindness along to those who needed it most. This book left me with a warm feeling and an appreciation for the way life can brings special people into our path. I highly recommend it to anyone who relishes that feeling of empathy for others.

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

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.

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

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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