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Average Rating:(4.3)out of 5 stars
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Most helpful positive review
2 customers found this helpful
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars
Oh, Im telling you ri...
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!
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
2 customers found this helpful
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars
Oh, Im telling you ri...
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!
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.
CD/Spoken Word, Blackstone Audio Inc, 2011, ISBN13 9781504625456, ISBN10 1504625455
24 reviews
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Oh, Im telling you ri...

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!

Helpful?
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Oh, Im telling you ri...

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!

Helpful?
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.

Helpful?
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Helpful?
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.

Helpful?
Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

Its a bit twee, and i...

It's a bit twee, and it wraps up a bit neatly, but it's a thoroughly enjoyable read. I never really warmed up to Vee, but I truly think this is an issue with me, not with the book. Crooked Heart is the kind of book you pick up after a lousy week at work or you have the flu. Yes, bad things happen, but the ending manages some cheer in spite of the homefront horrors of World War II.

Helpful?
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.

Helpful?
Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

I can recommend it. I...

I can recommend it. It tells the stories of a few people thrown together during the London Blitz. People who have closed themselves off from meaningful human contact have circumstances rub them raw. Evans prose and characterizations cleverly run in parallel. Keep reading; it's worth the destination.

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Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

What this story brilli...

What this story brilliantly displays is what it was like during the war, was to make money as much as possible while ducking into air raid shelters and seeing the destruction around them. I didn't really warm to Vee, very much, neither Noel, but the story was funny, touching and sad.

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Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

Noel is a 10 year old ...

Noel is a 10 year old boy evacuated from London during the Blitz and taken in by Vera, who is mostly in it for the extra ration coupons and the stipend. Noel is mourning the death of his guardian/godmother Mattie, a former suffragette. He seems to have landed in a rather loveless abode. Noel and Vera take up soliciting door-to-door for worthy causes, keeping the proceeds for themselves. They befriend an unbalanced but generous old woman who will become a bit of a cause for Noel and they uncover some shady dealing by the local wardens. Noel and Vera, two crusty and desperate survivors are, of course, fortunate to have found each other.

Helpful?
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

World War II books see...

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.

Helpful?
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Crooked Heart tells th...

Crooked Heart tells the story of Noel Bostock, a 10 year old who, at the start of the book lives with his godmother, Mattie. However, Mattie's death and the Second World War mean that Noel ends up living with Vee Sedge, a woman desperate for money and not caring how she gets it. Noel finds himself using his considerable intellect to help her out and in turn Vee helps Noel to get over his loss. I loved this book. It's quirky and chock-full of interesting characters, most of them not that likeable but Noel is quite a creation and Mattie and Vee, the two women who find themselves looking after him, are brilliant. The writing just kept me turning page after page. There's a dark humour to it and I found myself sniggering a few times. Such a clever and original book - I definitely recommend it.

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Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

Ten-year-old Noel Bost...

Ten-year-old Noel Bostock wasn't living an affluent life. But he felt loved and protected under the care of his godmother, Mattie. She is very set in her ways and refuses to evacuate Noel. But that's OK with him; the only company he needs is Mattie. She instilled in him a 'free-thinker' attitude. But Mattie is old. Even as Noel is mourning her death, he is evacuated and sent to live northwest of the city with Vera (Vee) Sedge. Vee is a widow and her household consists of her mother, Flora, and son, Donald. The story took place during WWII's London Blitz. Great debt and the lack of money is a constant battle for Vee. She and Noel begin to work together to scam the system. After all, the limp left after his encounter with polio must be good for something, right? The novel was not populated with dates but the reader had an idea of the time by the events - children being evacuated from England; Hitler having risen to power. The novel is lively with character personality, but clearly it's a very dark time in history. I felt it was a bit wordy at the beginning, but the pace picks up as we begin to see the relationship gradually change and grow between Vee and Noel. The reader's first impression of Vee is one of disdain but eventually discover that she and Noel were more like-minded than anyone would have guessed. It was a heart-warming story and through Vee's quick wit, it was humorous at times as well. Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Helpful?
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

World War II books see...

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.

Helpful?
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Crooked Heart by Lissa...

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans is a delightfully dark comedy surrounding an orphan, a con artist, and World War II. When Noel Bostock is sent to live in London, at the tender age of ten, he is in mourning his suffragette Aunt Mattie and while he is evacuated for his safety, his security is definitely not guaranteed. Noel is placed with the widower Vee Sedge, a woman who is an utter disaster when left to her own devices, struggling for money, and caring for her do nothing son Donald and her mother whose war effort is to write countless letters to the government, leaving Vee desperate and willing to do just about anything to obtain money. Noel is miserable in his new school, he is not adjusting to his new life at all, while Vera runs from one crisis into another until one day when Noel and Vera concoct a scheme, using Vee's inhibitions and unscrupulous nature and Noel's ability to make plans and act rather level headed, the two begin covering the bombed out area of London, making money and regaining an active interest in life, however Vee and Noel are not alone in attempts to make money during the war and soon the two learn it is a rather dangerous enterprise they have undertaken. Evans has written an impressively imaginative, delightfully dark comedy out of a very tragic time and does so rather well. Evans' writing is quite atmospheric; her characters are detailed, multi-dimensional, and intensely eclectic. Crooked Heart was a rather fun book to read, considering the topics this at first blush may sound odd, however Crooked Heart was far more than I expected, I had no difficulty imagining I was witnessing the story and it did not take long before I was invested deeply in the characters and could not set the book down. This is the first book I have read by Lissa Evans, but it will not be the last.

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Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

A story of love, justi...

A story of love, justice and acceptance. Crooked Heart had my attention after one chapter. I am fond of books set in England during and after WW II period. I don't know why but I gravitate toward that time period. This is my first book by Lissa Evans and it most certainly won't be the last one. In this story we focus on several characters, some of which are unlikable at first. They are out to scam a living but there is some justice woven in, enough to make you change your mind about a couple disreputable characters. The beginning of the book is set in London. Noel is a very intelligent 10-year-old orphan who is living quite happily with his godmother Mattie. She is his legal guardian, an Oxford educated woman and suffragette. She doesn't take kindly to being told what to do but she is tender and protective of Noel. You learn immediately in the first chapter that Mattie is slowly succumbing to dementia. Noel is concerned about the changes in Mattie, the fact that she can't find the correct words. Soon the children are ordered to evacuate the city as London is being bombed. Noel doesn't wish to leave Mattie and continues on with his schooling at home. I love the imagery in this book, such descriptive prose. Here is a passage that captures the scene and shows off Noel's well educated character. "The day after that, all the children disappeared, as if London had shrugged and all the small people had fallen off the edge. Noel, running an errand, was stared at in the street. The baker asked why he hadn't gone with the others. 'I think you'll find the evacuation is not compulsory,' replied Noel loftily. It was what Mattie had said to an interfering neighbor. " Eventually Mattie gets worse and no longer takes care of Noel or herself. He places signs on items so Mattie will know the words such as Oven or Sweater on the correct objects. He also learns to cook. "The days became untethered. Mealtimes slid around or disappeared altogether. Noel ate biscuits for three days, and then found a cookery book. The recipes were wonderfully satisfying; it was like doing an equation I which the correct answer was edible." After he is finally evacuated to the countryside he ends up with Vera Sedge. Vee, as she calls herself, sees the wardens walking the evacuees around looking for a foster home and jumps on the chance to grab Noel. Not because she wants to do her part or she has a fondness for children. No, she sees Noel as a chance to gain some money and get his ration book. While she sounds like a reprehensible person, what she is doing is trying to keep her family fed. She is solely responsible for taking care of her mute mother and teenaged son, one with a heart murmur and thus cannot volunteer as a soldier. You read about the rationing, the bombing of London and despite these horrendous conditions, you see it bring out the very best and worst in certain people. Vee and Noel become close and desite the differences in their education, they make a mighty good team. The interactions between them is great. Loved this book in spite of some sadness.

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Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

Crooked Heart, by Li...

"Crooked Heart," by Lissa Evans, is a thoroughly charming and heartwarming dark dramatic comedy set among the chaos of WWII's London Blitz. It's about two desperate souls from different worlds who stumble into each other's lives and manage to work their way into each other's hearts. It's a delightful comedy with a big heart and a happy ending. It's not a laugh-out-loud comedy, but rather one in which I smiled a lot...especially at the all the good humanity that can be found, even in times of war. The book tells the simple story of how Noel Bostock and Vera Sedge became family. Noel is a brilliant, lonely, grieving, ten-year-old upper-class orphan who is evacuated out of London during the beginning days of the Blitz. He ends up in the city's poor suburban outskirts. After a full day of being marched around the town with no family agreeing to take him in, Noel finds a bed with scheming and streetwise Vera. She agrees to take him in because she knows she can use Noel's odd behaviors to help her earn some extra cash. Vera is a thirty-six-year-old widow with two family members already at home, dependent on her care. It's not easy making a living when you're from the working poor and there's a war going on. She's a woman who has learned how to use the war to her advantage Along with hoards of other people, Vera has learned how to profit from the chaos of war. At first she forces Noel to help her solicit donations under false pretenses. They go door to door asking for money for charities like "The Dunkirk Widows and Orphans" fund. It's easy cash, especially with Noel taught to play the part of her deaf and dumb nitwit son. She doesn't want him talking because then he'd give them away with his posh, upper-class accent. Noel is mature and moral beyond his years. It takes him a while to learn that some things can be legally wrong, but morally right. As the book progresses, he meets some other shady characters who are also profiting from the chaos of war. But both of these people are involved in truly bad crimes, with real victims. He can easily tell the difference. He learns that even though Vera may have looked like she had a "crocked heart," she's still a decent loving human being, and definitely a woman who has earned his lifelong love and trust. This book has received a great deal of prepublication praise, so I came to it with unusually high expectations. What I found was a very well written book, with outstanding character development, and an endearing (if also somewhat sentimental) plot. It wasn't quite five stars, but I was thoroughly charmed nonetheless.

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