Sometimes it seems like so such WWII fiction has been published that even stories set during the London Blitz all start to feel too familiar. Then a story comes along like Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans and I see things from an entirely new perspective. True, this is another tale about a London boy sent to live in the safety of the countryside, but the characters are unlike any others I’ve read about. Noel is a quiet and precocious child who is living with his feisty former-Suffragette godmother Mattie in London until she begins suffering severely from the onset of dementia. With only the most tangential relations left to care for him, he sets out for a rural town where he is paraded through the streets with other children by a billeting officer until he’s spotted by a woman named Vee. She takes him into her home, not for the good of the cause, but for the ten and sixpence a week she’ll get for housing him. Vee has many responsibilities caring for her partially-invalid mother, who spends her days writing amusingly earnest letters to Churchill and son in his young adulthood, who escaped the draft due to a heart condition. At first she is perplexed by Noel’s oddities, remarking “he was like one of those fancy knots, all loops, no ends.” But gradually she comes to respect his intelligence and emotionally-guarded manner. Vee and Noel make a curious pair who form an unscrupulous alliance that leads them on an emotional journey.
Read my full review of Crooked Heart at Shiny New Books