My enormous thanks to Alison Barrow at Transworld Books for a copy of Lissa Evans’ ‘Crooked Heart’ in return for an honest review. ‘Crooked Heart’ is published in paperback by Black Swan on 31st December 2015 and is also already available in Hardback and ebook from Amazon UK, Amazon US and direct from the publishers.
When 10 year old Noel Bostock is evacuated from London to St Albans during the Second World War, staying with Vera Sedge is going to change his life in many ways. Still only 36 herself, Vera has an indolent adult son and a mountain of debt and difficulties so that Noel’s arrival gives her the brain power she needs to live her life differently.
‘Crooked Heart’ is a complete gem of a read. I’m not sure quite how Lissa Evans does it, but she manages to combine humour and exquisite sadness in a blend of perfection so that I loved every word from the opening line to the final full stop.
There’s a fairly small cast of characters so the reader comes to understand them fully. Vera is a complete rogue but utterly convincing and endearing. Noel’s precocious intelligence should make him irritating and annoying but instead he is so beautifully portrayed that I almost couldn’t bear to read on in case life treated him even more harshly. He’s wonderful.
The wartime setting is skilfully conveyed. It’s so easy to picture Lissa Evans’ scenes, whether through description, the queuing system, the bombings, or the dialogue which feels natural and effective. I also loved Vera’s mother Flora’s constant steam of letters advising Churchill how to run the war.
Although I would say ‘Crooked Heart’ is ultimately about love, it has a fabulous balance of wit and empathy in an emotional and compelling combination, exploring justice, morality and education within its narrative. It is both compellingly beautiful and wittily funny as the plot races along and whilst there is a tenderness to the writing, there isn’t a hint of sentimentality to undermine its perfection.
I thought ‘Crooked Heart’ was brilliant and Lissa Evans has gained a new fan.