Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

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Source: TLC Book Tours
Hardcover, 288 pgs.
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Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans is an odd narrative in that it is disjointed at times and features a number of eccentric characters, including 10-year-old Noel, Vee, and Donald.  Noel is a young orphan evacuee who is sent to live with Vee, Donald, and Vee’s mother during WWII.  Noel’s a quiet boy who loves detective novels and is incredibly heart-broken by the time he reaches their home.  Vee, on the other hand, is struggling to make ends meet only to have a son who does little more than expect her to wait on him and barely goes to his job.  Evans captures the essence of these struggling residents during rationing and bombardments by the Nazis.  Readers will be fully engaged by the historical setting, but the pairing of this intelligent boy and this woman who is looking for the next get rich quick scheme, is unlikely and tough to take at face value until more than halfway through the novel.

“His teeth were regular and well-spaced, like battlements.  Noel liked to imagine tiny soldiers popping up between them, firing arrows across the room or pouring molten lead down Uncle Geoffrey’s chin.” (pg. 10 ARC)

“The day after that, all the children disappeared, as if London had shrugged and the small people had fallen off the edge.” (pg. 15 ARC)

Vee is impulsive and Noel is level-headed, and like Vee, Donald, makes impulsive decisions that often land him into trouble.  Evans has a way with imagery and she captures the tumultuous times deftly, but often the disjointed narrative can pull readers out of the story, especially when she moves from one perspective to another with little to no transition.  However, as the relationship develops between Vee and Noel, moving from a business relationship to a more familial relationship, readers will become invested in their struggles.  The story of Donald, her son, however, fades in importance, and by the end almost feels as though it was an add-on, not really integral to the story.

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans provides a realistic look at life in London and elsewhere in England at the time of WWII when rationing was in full swing and bombings were a real concerns, especially for residents of London.  Vee and Noel are able to find a home among the wreckage, and while not everyone’s stories are wrapped up neatly, Evans develops a realistic picture of wartime England.

About the Author:

Lissa Evans, a former radio and television producer, is the author of three previous novels, including Their Finest Hour and a Half, which was longlisted for the Orange Prize. Crooked Heart was also longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly known as the Orange Prize); it is her first novel to be published in the US. Evans lives in London with her family.  Find out more about Evans at her website, and follow her on Twitter.




Mailbox Monday #329

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1.  The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig, which I received for review in July from Tandem Literary.

Claire “Neely” O’Neil is a pastry chef of extraordinary talent. Every great chef can taste shimmering, elusive flavors that most of us miss, but Neely can “taste” feelings—cinnamon makes you remember; plum is pleased with itself; orange is a wake-up call. When flavor and feeling give Neely a glimpse of someone’s inner self, she can customize her creations to help that person celebrate love, overcome fear, even mourn a devastating loss.

Maybe that’s why she feels the need to go home to Millcreek Valley at a time when her life seems about to fall apart. The bakery she opens in her hometown is perfect, intimate, just what she’s always dreamed of—and yet, as she meets her new customers, Neely has a sense of secrets, some dark, some perhaps with tempting possibilities. A recurring flavor of alarming intensity signals to her perfect palate a long-ago story that must be told.

Neely has always been able to help everyone else. Getting to the end of this story may be just what she needs to help herself.

2.  Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans from Harper Collins for review for TLC Book Tours.

When Noel Bostock – aged ten, no family – is evacuated from London to escape the Blitz, he ends up living in St Albans with Vera Sedge – thirty-six and drowning in debts and dependents. Always desperate for money, she’s unscrupulous about how she gets it.

Noel’s mourning his godmother, Mattie, a former suffragette. Brought up to share her disdain for authority and eclectic approach to education, he has little in common with other children and even less with Vee, who hurtles impulsively from one self-made crisis to the next. The war’s thrown up new opportunities for making money but what Vee needs (and what she’s never had) 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. Criss-crossing the bombed suburbs of London, Vee starts to make a profit and Noel begins to regain his interest in life.

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…

What did you receive?