Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans
Harper - Historical Fiction/WWII
'I knew,' said Mrs. Williams, surrounded (for the first time in her life) by interested listeners. 'I heard the whistle as it dropped and I said to Idris, "It's got our name on it!" and he said, "Well let's hope it's spelled wrong," and I said, "Shall we get under the stairs?" and he said, "Too late for that, girl!" and then he threw himself on top of me.'
First time for everything, thought Vee. The bomb had landed on the shed and Mr. and Mrs. Williams had survived uninjured, though a chicken had been blown straight through the kitchen window.
--from p. 165 of Advance Reader Copy, Crooked Heart (some changes may have been made to the final print version)
This is going to be one of those times I feel inadequate to review. I've been thinking about what I can possibly say about Crooked Heart since the moment I closed it. That was, what? . . . 3 weeks ago? Whatever weekend the #FlashReadathon was held, that was the weekend I finished.
Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans is about a young boy named Noel who is evacuated from central London during the Blitz of WWII. Vee, the woman who takes Noel in, is the single mother of a young man named Donald, who is unable to serve in the armed forces because he has a heart condition. Vee is operating a con game, Vee's mother spends most of her time writing letters (a few of which, addressed to Winston Churchill, are included in the book) while Donald is keeping busy with a moneymaking scheme of his own.
When Noel comes to live with Vee, he makes a surprising offer to help her with the con game she has ineptly begun, making door-to-door collections for various benevolent funds and then keeping the money. Noel has spent most of his life with his godmother, an elderly lady who was intelligent and wise. Noel learned a great deal from her and he is one sharp cookie. Although Vee seems like a terrible human when they meet, when their scheme begins to pay off she starts to soften and show a surprisingly generous side. Eventually Noel also begins to heal from the loss of the godmother who challenged him intellectually and whom he misses profoundly.
When I finished reading, I discussed the book with suspense author Paula Daly on Twitter and I think it's worth noting my immediate reaction because sometimes when you're not thinking about reviewing it's easier to describe a book in few words.
@pauladalyauthor Isn't it wonderful? It's everything I love in a book: well-researched, a setting I love, perfect pacing, humor & drama.— Bookfoolery (@Bookfoolery) June 20, 2015
Highly recommended - Crooked Heart is by far the most pitch-perfect book I've read in 2015, an absolute gem. There's so much wit and humor. As I was reading, it occurred to me that Lissa Evans' writing reminded me of someone else's but I couldn't put a finger on whose. I think it may be Mollie Panter-Downes that I'm thinking of (in Good Evening, Mrs. Craven) or perhaps D. E. Stevenson in the Miss Buncle books (Miss Buncle's Book; Miss Buncle Married). Point being, she has a peculiarly British and very smart style that I adore.
It wasn't till I was midway through Crooked Heart and looking to see what else Lissa Evans has written that I realized I have actually read her, before. A few years ago, I read Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms. That was back in the days when I used a numerical rating system and I gave it a 5/5. The same would be true for Crooked Heart if I hadn't ditched the numerical ratings.
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