By Lissa Evans
Published by Black Swan (31 December 2015)
When Noel Bostock - aged ten, no family - is evacuated from London to escape the Blitz, he winds up in St Albans with Vera Sedge - thiry-six, drowning in debts. Always desperate for money, she's unscrupulous about how she gets it.
The war's thrown up all manner of new opportunities but what Vee needs 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 an idea. 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 . . .
Crooked Heart is a gorgeous easy read, showing an alternative side of wartime London.
Ten-year-old Noel lives with his godmother Mattie, who gives him a slightly alternative education with her suffragette views. Noel doesn't fit in well with his classmates - he's a thinker, dreamer and loner, usually found with his head in a book. When Mattie succumbs to dementia, Noel is evacuated to St Albans to live with the slightly crooked Vera (Vee) Sedge (who sees him as a money-making scheme) and her rather naive son Donald.
Crooked Heart is funny, poignant and charming, with gorgeous characters that you can't help but love, from Noel and Mattie to Vee and Donald. I loved the flourishing friendship between Noel and Vee - and how two very different people find a common bond. I also found the book's social history background fascinating - the story of evacuees and how they were sent to live with complete strangers, even in the London suburbs/Hertfordshire (which are not that far away from central London).
This is a book that will stay with me for some time. It's the story of a boy who's grieving, lost and alone in the world, and a woman who needs more focus in her life. I love how all the characters change and grow throughout the book, and feel more complete and content by the end.
I received an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review.