Quite a tough decision on what to pick for BotW this week – there were several contenders. But in the end I’ve plumped for Lissa Evans’ Crooked Heart, which I devoured over the weekend while we were away for an extended jolly for my birthday. This was another book which had ended up at the bottom of my to-read pile and resurfaced because of the Big Box Up and I’m so glad that it did.
Crooked Heart tells the story of Noel, who is evacuated to Hertfordshire in 1940. Noel is an unusual 10 year old. He’s been brought up by an old lady and is precocious and smart beyond his years. He ends up with Vera – a 36 year old single mum struggling with debt, a recalcitrant and secretive son and her demanding mother. Vera is sure there is some money to be made out of the war, but the trouble is that she’s not very good at making a plan and sticking to it. But Noel is a different proposition. He’s smart, he’s calm and he might be the answer to Vera’s problems. But of course they’re not the only people making money from the war, and there are dangers other than air-raids in Noel’s new life.
I really enjoyed this. Noel and Vera are engaging characters who make a good team. Vera is almost a proto-Del Boy – but with Noel to help she has the chance of her deals actually going right. In some ways Noel reminded me of William in Goodnight Mr Tom (that’s a good thing) – Noel has had more advantages in his education and home life that William did, but he’s still a little boy who has had to grow up too fast and deal with things that children aren’t meant to deal with. And one of the themes of Goodnight Mr Tom is finding your own family and your own place in life and there’s a lot of that here although Vee is very different to Tom.
It’s a heartwarming romp through the grey, greyer and uglier areas of life on the home front. I could easily have read another 100 pages of Vee and Noel, but actually the ending is a brilliant touch. I haven’t read any of Lissa Evans’ books before, but my little sister still has a copy Evans’ first novel, Spencer’s List, on her shelf which I bought for her back in the day 15 years ago, so I’m going to have to borrow that off her and read it. Coincidentally someone posted a trailer on Facebook for the upcoming film Their Finest on the same day as I read this – and that’s based on Evans’ previous book Their Finest Hour and a Half, which I totally need to read now as well.
You can get a copy of Crooked Heart from Amazon, Waterstones and Foyles or on Kindle or Kobo. And it looks like there might be a (slightly retitled) tie-in edition of Their Finest Hour and Half coming out too.