Read Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans Online


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 eclecticWhen 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…...

Title : Crooked Heart
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780385614337
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 284 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Crooked Heart Reviews

  • Diane S ☔
    2019-01-15 22:59

    Hard to believe I could find a novel about the London Blitz and WWII both heartwarming and at times ironically humorous. But I did and much of this is due to the author and her wonderful characterizations. I quickly fell in love with ten year old Noel, a precocious boy of unknown origins who was being raised by his suffragette and eccentric godmother, Mattie. Eventually he will be one of the children evacuated and taken in by a woman named Vee, who sees this as an opportunity to make some money. What is wonderful about this novel is how they characters change and grow throughout, some for the better some for the worse. Yes, there are bombs falling, deaths and accidents, thievery and lost people but for the most part, Noel and Vee, their exploits, and their growth, propel this novel. Wonderful story about two people who find each other in an unusual time and in unusual circumstances. ARC from publisher.

  • Aditi
    2019-01-08 18:01

    “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . ."” ----C.S. LewisLissa Evans, an English writer, pens a heart-touching historical fiction, Crooked Heart: A Novelabout unusual friendships set against the vivid and honest backdrop in London during the world war II, when Germany was constantly dropping off bombs over the city of London.Synopsis: When Noel Bostock—aged ten, no family—is evacuated from London to escape the Nazi bombardment, he lands in a suburb northwest of the city with Vera Sedge—a thirty-six-year old widow 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. Wise beyond his years, raised with a disdain for authority and an eclectic attitude toward education, he has little in common with other children and even less with the impulsive Vee, who hurtles from one self-made crisis to the next. The war’s provided unprecedented 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 a scheme. Crisscrossing 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. Noel, a 10 year old boy's journey begins at Hampstead as an orphan hence living with his cousin god-mother, Mattie, who was a suffragette. But due to her memory loss and the raging war took a toll on her thus turning already orphan Noel into an evacuee who had to leave behind his only relatives in Hampstead to a safer suburb in St. Alban's, where he became a part of the Sedge family consisting of a strong, often ridiculous and always a mean woman when it comes to getting her hands on extra money by hook or crook, Vera and her lazy son, Donald and her sick mother who ocassionaly wrote letters to Winston Churchill in order to participate in the war in some way, Flora. Noel's arrival, who happens to work with a slight limp due to polio, in Vera's life turned out to be a boon as she could ask for money from door-to-door for her numerous charity scum, on the other hand, Noel gradually began to like Vee's mean ways of tricking people into giving money for her charity. Together the pair braces the war-raged city of London from one suburb to another in order to run their charity, but will this war, which also threatens to take away not only the social, economic as well as political well being of a human being but also the heart of a human being, be able to tear apart this unusual yet undying bond of friendship between a woman and an orphan boy?The writing is fantastic layered as well as mixed with deep emotions, which has an ability to tug the readers' heart strings. The narrative is absolutely engaging layered with dark humor and wit with Vee's comical narrative as well as demeanor. The prose is evocative and the author has vividly captured the essence of a particular location through her story.The timeline as well as the backdrop both are strikingly portrayed thus falling in sync with the story of Vee and Noel. London and it's suburbs back during the second world war is carefully and distinctly arrested in to the background thus making the readers feel like they are tele-ported back in time. Each and every street in London during the air raid as well as the resulting chaos are perfectly captured and when these two characters walk through that chaos, it will make the readers feel like they too are challenging the war to find a way to their living.The main characters, especially, Noel and Vee, are drawn with enough realism. Noel's intuitive as well as bibliophilic nature will keep the readers glued to the storyline, whereas Vee's wit will make the readers go LOL at times. The rest of the characters are too strikingly and strongly developed and make their presence felt deeply in the story as some of the supporting characters are etched out with lots of back story, thus providing depth to their demeanor. The theme is war and friendship and how people used to survive or make a living in the war. It is surprising to see that most people used to trick others into giving money to them for some vague and unreal reason and everyone was involved in some kind of illegal business to make some extra cash during the war. Vee had debts of her own and to survive herself and her family from those debts she used Noel, a crippled boy, to become her ally in order to help her collect money from people by lying, and it seems Noel too used to enjoy the way he used to help Vee and gradually in a race against the war to survive and support, these two become not just friends but more than that, which doesn't ask for sympathy from the readers but makes their hearts fill with joy and love.In short, this a poignant as well as witty historical fiction where the author has successfully as well as brilliantly depicted the dark side of the war in London, where survival meant the only thing.Verdict:Historical fiction fans will love to read this one. Courtesy:Thanks to the author, Lissa Evans, for providing me with an ARC of her book, in return for an honest review.

  • Carolyn
    2018-12-28 19:08

    This was a sweet story about a ten year old boy called Noel orphaned and evacuated from London to the small town of St Albans during the blitz after the death of his guardian. He is taken in by Vera, a woman struggling to keep her head above water financially who sees him as an extra source of income. Noel is an unusual boy, brought up by his godmother Mattie, an elderly ex-suffragette, and is quiet and bookish with a vocabulary and wisdom well beyond his years. He's disliked by the other evacuees who he has to go to school with and doesn't fit in easily to Vera's household consisting of her feckless, lazy lump of a son and her aged, mute mother who spends her time writing letters of advice to Churchill. Noel, soon warms himself to Vera by coming up with money making schemes and the two gradually form an unusual partnership. Meanwhile Vera's son Donald is getting himself into hot water with his own illegal dealings. Quietly humorous, the story about ordinary people surviving during the war and the blitz feels very authentic. The author has a real affection for her unusual characters and I was sorry to leave them at the end of the book.

  • Tim
    2018-12-30 01:12

    Charming would probably be how lots of people describe this book. Charm though doesn’t work on everyone and this novel’s charm was lost on me. For one thing the material was spread very thin – people have written memorable short stories with more material. Also, considering the novel’s subject matter was largely everyday life, I found suspension of disbelief difficult at times. For example when Noel, the rather clichéd precocious orphan, is evacuated he moves into a home where both mother and son are involved in wartime swindles – the son rents out his deficient body to men wanting to fail the call-up medical and the mother collects money for non-existent charities. Except neither knows what the other is up to. There was a second instance of repeating characters later in the novel when a second woman with dementia pops up. When you wanted contrast you kept getting photocopies. It was like the only characters who weren’t seedy had dementia. Also it was very predictable that all these bad eggs would finally end up good eggs. I suppose the author was trying to debunk the idea that everyone in Britain was selfless and united during the war but it rarely rang true for me. Any episode of Dad’s Army is miles better. Lightweight and forgettable.

  • Susan
    2019-01-06 19:57

    Ten year old Noel Bostock lives in Hampstead with his godmother Mattie; an ex suffragette with strong and decided opinions. Noel is bookish, with few friends, but he is very happy with Mattie, so, when she begins to lose her memory and act oddly, his life begins to fall apart. Despite his longing for his life to remain as it is, Mattie’s illness and the encroaching war lead to Noel being evacuated to the relative safety of nearby St Alban’s. Noel dislikes his classmates and, although grateful to escape the cloying marriage of his aunt and uncle –the only family he has left – he finds himself with the well meaning but chaotic Vee Sedge. Always in debt, Vee does her best for her lazy son, Donald, and her dependent mother, who spends her time writing letters to members of the government –her personal contribution to the war effort. Both Vee and Donald have their own plan to make money out of the war and, although Vee initially takes Noel in with the hope that she will benefit, she soon finds that he is an extremely useful ally. What is more, Noel finds that helping Vee gives him back an interest in life. However, a chance meeting puts Noel in danger and war torn London is no place for a small boy to be on his own...This is an utterly joyous read. Both Vee and Noel are wonderful characters – they are both completely different and yet respond instinctively to each other’s needs. The depictions of London during wartime is both realistic and darkly humorous. The side story involving son Donald helps to give the storyline depth and I was saddened to get to the end of the novel. I have never read anything by this author before, but I certainly hope to read more. A wonderful personal read and ideal for reading groups, I recommend it highly.

  • Raven Haired Girl
    2019-01-08 01:02

    A tender story of survival, loss, the necessity for love, and how an unlikely pair can end up forming a powerful team.Wartime London vividly depicted. The difficulties and challenges along with the undeniable danger all halting. Very affecting allowing the reader to comprehend the lengths taken for basic survival.I adored both Vee and Noel – opposites in need of each other for varying reasons. The connection Noel shared with Mattie was compelling. I felt for his loss, it is heartbreaking. He struggles with grief as best as he can, the moments when he breaks down tug at your heartstrings. Vee comes across as a grifter, conniving but as her story unfolds you discover her desperation during desperate times calls for extreme measures. She’s in a difficult predicament, one I refuse to judge. Given Vee’s position during wartime not sure what I would do in order to provide for my family. Watching these two colorful quirky characters form a bond was lovely.An emotional story of human kind during a trying time when survival is a task. Bittersweet enraptured story.

  • Jane
    2019-01-04 16:45

    Isn’t it lovely when you find a story that really strikes a chord?This is the story of ten year-old Noel Bostock. He lived in Hampstead with his godmother Mattie; she had been a suffragette and she had firm and individual opinions, formed over the course of a life well lived. Noel was bright and he was bookish; he had little in common with children his own age, he didn’t understand them at all, and so he had few friends; but he was very happy with Mattie. They understood each other.But when Mattie’s mind began to fail, when she began to lose her memory and to act oddly, Noel struggled to cope. He didn’t ask for help, because he knew that Mattie wouldn’t want that. Tragedy ensued.This was the part of the story that struck a chord, because I have had to support and my own mother, who is on the same path that Mattie followed. Lissa Evans telling of this part of the story was pitch perfect and profoundly moving.Noel tried hold on to his home and his way of life, but the encroaching war, and there own wish to not be too involved, led his new guardians to send him as an evacuee, to the relative safety of nearby St Alban’s.The sullen child, who had a limp and ears that stuck out terribly, had a long wait to be offered a home; but eventually he was taken in by the muddled, well meaning, and not entirely honest Vee Sedge.Vee did her best to keep her family together. Her son worked nights and during the day often went away, offering no explanation at all; and her dependent mother, was an obsessive letter writer, writing to government ministers and public figures, determined to sort the war out and make the world a better place. The family was always in debt, it was a struggle to find the money to keep the rent collector at bay, and Vee was sure that she could keep an evacuee for less that the payment she would receive for his board and lodgings.Vee had other plans for making money from the war, and she found that a bright, young boy could be a very useful ally; Noel instinctively helped Vee and he found himself enjoying his new role. The two of them became a team. That was lovely to watch; two completely different characters, who don’t entirely understand each other but who realise they can help each other and instinctively do just that. It worked so well because those two characters were flawed and so very, very believable, and because Lissa Evans wrote of them with wit, with empathy and without a hint of sentimentality. The depictions of London during wartime was very well done, and the story touched on interesting aspects of life in wartime, some of which I hadn’t thought about before. It was utterly engaging; I was there, I was involved, I cared. I wasn’t at all surprised to find out that Donald’s absences had come about because, like his mother, he was scheming to make money from the war. His plans were much more dangerous than hers, and when Noel found himself out of his depth and in serious trouble it was Donald’s fault. Vee wanted to do the right thing, but she knew that there would be a price, and that scared her.My heart was in my mouth. The danger was very real.I was so sorry when the book was over.It spoke so very well about the lengths people will go to survive; about our need for love and support; and about how people can take you by surprise.It’s a wonderfully human story, balancing dark subjects and rich humour wonderfully well.I loved it!

  • Mmars
    2019-01-08 23:53

    Just recently in a review I bemoaned that a book about WWII needed to add something unique to that enormous body of literature for me to find it notable. Well, lo and behold, along comes this book to warm my heart and tickle my soul. “Crooked Heart” begins on the periphery of World War II in the outskirts of London. Noel is a 10-year-old orphan living with his beloved godmother in “a spacious brick box, with a fancy ironwood verandah and a garden full of azaleas. ‘A Victorian gentleman’s residence,’ she [Mattie, his godmother] said.” Noel is the child we knew in school who was indifferent to the social life of other kids because he had a life all his own, perfectly content in knowing and expanding his world of knowledge about things the rest of us never gave a single thought to. But he becomes a Dickensian child when Mattie’s mind quickly deteriorates and she wanders out at night and accidentally dies. She has refused his evacuation to the country and now Noel is placed with her cousin and his wife, so devoted to each other that there is no affection left over for Noel. Well, Noel leaves them one day to be an evacuee. All the other children in his group are fostered. And at last Vee, a dim-witted woman, takes him just for the money. But she soon realizes that this wise child with a limp could work to her advantage in the game of getting by in London circa WWII. They are sort of a Pinky and the Brain duo. But the game of getting by is not always on the up-and-up. And the London bombings do happen and the war IS a major player in their lives. And to say more of the story from here on would spoil the fun of reading the book. So just get it and read it. And hopefully you’ll find it as fresh a take on WWII as I did. Possibly my favorite read to this point in 2015.

  • Laura Leaney
    2019-01-07 17:12

    I'm so glad I read this novel Thanksgiving week, as it's been quite a while since I was emotionally invested in a book's characters enough to feel a profound gratefulness to the power of love. So many books on World War II and London's Blitz are sentimental and tired, but Lissa Evans's is beautifully moving because the war is second to the desperate characters. Parts of the book are funny, while other parts provoke anxiety on behalf of a little boy named Noel who is preternaturally intelligent and sadly abandoned.Much of my pleasure was derived from the superb writing, writing that evokes perfectly resonant images and an English way of life particular to the period. When Noel runs out of books to read the time "stretched like knicker elastic," or when "the bombing stopped in May, it took weeks for them to lose the habit of nightly fear, to straighten up, like grass after the roller has been shifted." Mostly though, I feel profoundly happy to have found this book. I read it on the plane to Oregon and finished it at my mom's house, where I'm leaving it for her to read. I made her promise to mail my copy back to me. It's a beautiful thing, like found sea glass.

  • Book Riot Community
    2018-12-26 20:56

    An Blitz evacuee–raised until recently by a formidable, slightly-off suffragist–and a small-time con artist team up to cheat and swindle their way through the war until a quest for justice complicates everything. It’s a good pitch; it got me to pick up the book, after all. But if you stop at the summary, you miss the full richness and delight of this lovely title: the characters are charmingly uncharming, the writing is always strong and frequently beautiful, the history is nicely done, and more. Basically, the book just works, and you should read it as soon as you’re able. — Derek Attigfrom The Best Books We Read In May:

  • Joanne Sheppard
    2019-01-05 20:07

    When I finished reading Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans, my first thought was that it reminded me of a cross between Cold Comfort Farm, I Capture The Castle and Goodnight Mr Tom. Those aren't comparisons I would ever make lightly - in fact, it's about as strong an endorsement you could get from me. As the Second World War breaks out, ten-year-old Noel Bostock lives in London with his adored godmother and guardian Mattie, an ex-suffragette with an entertainingly formidable personality and unconventional views on everything from world politics to education. But a tragic turn of events means that Noel - remarkably bright, painfully incapable of relating to children his own age and made conspicuous by protruding ears and a limp - finds himself foisted as an evacuee upon the sharp-tongued, duplicitous Vee Sedge, crammed into a tiny flat from which she, her selfish, silent mother and her equally selfish, lazy son Donald are in constant danger of eviction.It would have been easy to make this a straightforward 'plucky orphan wins over cold-hearted adult' story, but in fact, Noel is no Pollyanna. Noel is difficult, sullen and bitter and Vee is mercenary and unscrupulous - and that's where the strength of Lissa Evans' writing really comes into its own. There's a strong bittersweet flavour to this story of a flawed, emotionally bruised pair of misfits: it's moving, but never sentimental or sugary in tone. The fact that Evans can make us love these characters, despite their concerted efforts to make themselves unlovable, is absolutely key to Crooked Heart's success.There's also an undercurrent of tragedy to much of the novel's humour - the grimness of Vee's situation is, in particular, genuinely dark, and much of the comedy comes from the matter-of-fact manner in which appalling behaviour and events are recounted. But at the same time, there's a gentle, understated warmth to this book which make you want to hug it to your chest when you've finished. It's a lovely, life-affirming read with memorable characters, and the Second World War - all about making do, getting by, staying stoical and making the best things amid bewildering upheaval - is the perfect backdrop for the story that unfolds.At this point in a review, I'd usually be addressing any negatives, but I'm honestly finding it hard to think of any. This one's definitely going on my list of favourites.

  • Bonnie
    2019-01-19 21:03

    My rating: 4.5 of 5 starsNoel, a ten year old boy, has been raised by his eccentric, ex-suffragette godmother Mattie. In addition to his normal schooling, Mattie always took the time to give what she referred to as “proper schooling” which included discussions on the obscure and essay topics that gave you more reasons to think such as “What Is Freedom?” and “All Things are Difficult Before They Are Easy”. Mattie imbued in him her particular understanding of the world causing him to develop the most intriguing personality making him an immediate addition to my favorite quirky children in literature shelf. In addition to the impending war causing the residents of London and its outskirts to be constantly on their toes, Noel is attempting to handle the seriousness of Mattie’s decline into senile dementia. Instead of evacuating London with the rest of the children, he opts to stay with Mattie to take care of her knowing that soon she’s not going to be able to take care of him much longer let alone herself. The introduction of Noel and Mattie is fantastically succinct and encompasses the Prologue alone. It set an amazing tone and heightened expectations for the rest of the story. I’m so very pleased to say that it never disappointed and only continued to impress me.‘The day after that, all the children disappeared, as if London had shrugged and the small people had fallen off the edge.’On a particularly typical yet cold Winter night, Mattie decides to take a walk and doesn’t come back home. Noel is now forced into evacuating and he’s rounded up with several other children hoping to find families willing to take in another mouth to feed. Noel comes across as a shy, silent child but is actually in very deep mourning for the one person on this earth he truly loved.‘Reading felt effortful. It was odd to think that for years he had sucked up print without thinking. Since leaving Mattie’s house, he hadn’t finished a book. He couldn’t follow a plot any more, the meaning seemed to bypass his brain, or else stuck to it briefly and then fell off when he turned the page, like an inadequately licked stamp.’He finds himself taken in by a middle-aged woman named Vee, for the sole reason of the money she’s able to collect for taking him into her care. Right off the bat, her intentions aren’t honorable, but considering Noel is never mistreated or anything of the like, she’s easily forgiven. Vee’s son Donny has a heart problem and is unable to contribute financially and her mother is unable to speak following an incident where she collapsed and hit her head after Vee first told her she was pregnant (and un-wed). Drastic times call for drastic measures and Vee begins grasping for any possible way to earn enough money to help her household survive. This is how she comes up with the idea of going door to door for donations, except there is no charity awaiting her collected coin; it’s going straight into her own pocket. Noel, wrapped in the comfort of his mourning, regains a spark of life when he recognizes Vee’s actions for what they are subsequently intriguing him enough to offer to help. He comes up with a better plan and together, the unlikeliest of duos use the War as an opportunity to survive. I really paced myself with this one, knowing early on it was going to be hard to say goodbye to this vibrant and original cast of characters. For a book that I picked up simply because it was related to World War II, it had surprisingly little to do with the actual war. It was rather a behind the scenes type look on what you would expect to encounter during wartime but never quite earns its own story. I loved how the story delves into what’s morally right after the duo uncover a crime occurring where people’s belongings are being stolen after they are forced to evacuate. Even though they are collecting for a charity that doesn’t actually exist, these people are still giving willingly. Crooked Heart asks the question: is it better to take under false pretenses or to steal without their knowledge? Is one legally wrong and the other simply morally wrong?Crooked Heart, while also delving into the seriousness of war without going as far as to take us to the battle lines, is also instilled with a dark humor that I feel is most appropriate for that day and age. Because even though there is sadness that is saturated into every nook and cranny and hangs over the city like a pall, there’s still some humor to be found and Evans characters use it as a coping mechanism to get through these trying times. Wonderful, wonderful novel, I’m so very glad I took the chance on this obscure little gem of a read.I received this book free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

  • Carla *Jen7waters*
    2019-01-04 17:05

    DNFI can't do this. It's so boring... -_-

  • Laura
    2019-01-15 22:04

    Crooked Heart was well written, witty and endearing. Noel, the orphan-boy in the story, was compellingly strange and unique. Vera, the money-grubbing, bottom  of the barrel scraping, system manipulating thief some how makes you root for her. Perhaps it's because her schemes are hilarious failures. Or maybe it's just because of her heart, and it's surprising enormity. The two of them make for quite the team, needless to say.So, why the 3 star rating? As much as I enjoyed the characters in this novel, the storyline itself left something to be desired, in my opinion. The writing was impressive but I was never able to really get lost in the plot. What it was missing exactly though, I have no idea. There was a lot to like, but maybe just not enough to love.

  • Luanne Ollivier
    2018-12-28 00:55

    Oh, I'm telling you right up front that Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans is going to be one of my top reads for 2015!It's the height of WWII and England is on high alert. Ten year old orphan Neil Bostock is evacuated from London. He lands with Vee - a small time con artist with a good heart, but not great luck. Neil is educated, precocious and misses his suffragette Godmother Mattie terribly. Neil and Vee seem like an unlikely pairing. But 'war makes strange bedfellows.' And they might just have what the other needs.....Evans has created such tangible characters in Vee and Noel. My opinion of Vee changed as the book progressed - from dismissing her as a hustler, to getting to know her, to empathizing with her losses, and finally to cheering her on, hoping against hope that the ending I want would materialize. We get to know Noel slowly as he assesses his current situation and adapts as need be. I was immediately taken by him. Other supporting characters are just as interesting - I especially enjoyed the myriad letters that Vee's mute mother pens. Mattie makes only a brief appearance, but her presence is large in Noel's life and memories and we come to love her as much as he does. The wartime setting is also a character in Crooked Heart. The rationing, the attitudes, the bombings and more all shape, direct and change the course of Vee and Noel.Now, yes, there are sad situations, but.....Evans has a wickedly dark sense of humour that's quite appealing. Her sly wit is visible in a description, a look or a snippet of dialogue. Above all, Crooked Heart is entertaining. I read so many books and often find I can predict where a tale will go, or recognize a plot. I truly had no idea where Evans was going to take her tale.Initially, I took the moral high ground when confronted with Vee's scams. But, my opinion rapidly changed as I got to know Vee and Noel. I found myself soundly in their corner - and hoping they could scam the scammers. Evans nicely explores right and wrong through many characters and situations in Crooked Heart. And by the end, it's impossible to say that a little bit of wrong isn't a little bit right.I love books that speak to the human condition - life, love, death and everything that comes in between. This unlikely pair totally won my heart. I was sad to turn the last page. But satisfied, very satisfied. Crooked Heart is, well, heartwarming, heartbreaking and oh,so very good. Heartily recommended!

  • Barbara
    2018-12-29 00:05

    Crooked Heart joins The Book Thief and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe as books whose protagonists are youthful evacuees during WWII trying to find where they fit in with a new "family." Crooked Heart, however, lacks both the charming characters of The Book Thief and the adventure-filled plot of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.Noel is already adrift without family ties, when he lands on the doorstep of Vera (Vee) Sedge, a woman with a full house but an empty life. Vee cares for both her mother, a mute who spends her days tethered to the wireless, and her adult son, who can't seem to keep a legitimate job to contribute to the family's welfare. Enter Noel, a precocious and gifted 10-year-old, still grieving the loss of his godmother, Mattie. It is obvious that Noel and Vee's lives are destined to become intertwined, though the route the author takes is neither direct nor engaging.The problem for me lies in the characters. Noel initially refuses to talk, Vee's mother can't talk, and her son is never around to talk. The characters carry on in their own orbits, sometimes not even circling the same planet. Other books that employ multiple perspectives and parallel narratives draw you in with well-developed characters, each with his/her own internal struggles and moral dilemmas. Not so in this case. We know so little about Vee's mother and son that we can neither empathize with nor understand their erratic behavior. They show no concern others, and I really felt no concern for them. They each had their own story arc, but honestly, the book would have been just as good (or bad) without them.The plot was not much better. There was no overarching conflict-neither internal nor external. Noel and Vee employ a con to earn money, but soon abandon it. Noel decides to right a wrong, but that too falls flat. Despite not having any compelling rising action, I did stick it out and found the book to have a satisfying ending, but only in the sense that everyone found themselves settled somewhere at the conclusion.Final notes: The book wasn't terrible. Perhaps I have been overly harsh with this review, but there are SO many better books out there, especially in this genre. If you are looking for a coming-of-age, World War II, historical fiction book, let me know. I will come up with a top ten list, but it won't include Crooked Heart.

  • Anne
    2019-01-20 20:01

    Every so often a book comes along that makes you want to thrust it into people's hands and say "read this - it's wonderful". Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans was published by Doubleday (Transworld) on 6 November for Kindle and in hardback. As a quick look at the Amazon page will tell you, it's already gathered a large number of impressive comments from people who certainly know about these things. Such praise sometimes worries me, and books sometimes just don't live up to expectations - but this one exceeded every expectation I had.The characters are simply perfect. Not just brittle and hard-edged Vee who later reveals a heart of pure gold, and poor awkward Noel, old way beyond his years and wanted by no-one, with his sticking-out ears and difficult ways. They are a magnificent pairing, with a story that will grab you and never let you go until you turn the last page, but the supporting characters are every bit as engaging. There's Vee's mother, who lost her power of speech when Vee's son was born but writes wonderful letters to everyone from Winston Churchill to Arthur Askey about the realities of living through the war. Then there's Vee's son Donald, whose dodgy heart has helped him to avoid the draft, and now has a use for others. Noel's godmother Mattie, the former suffragette with an unusual slant in her view of life, who appears only in the prologue and in Noel's memories, is a superb creation. There's a vast cast here, every individual perfectly drawn, all leaping off the page - I've rarely read a story where the writer does such a good job of breathing life into characters who may only appear on the page for a very short time. The wartime setting is vividly and authentically created, full of domestic detail, unflinching in the way it portrays the human impact, and the human cruelty and nastiness that lurks beneath the "all pulling together" surface. The book is very, very funny at times - but it also succeeds in being desperately and heart-breakingly moving, with a story you'll never forget.I unreservedly loved it - without question one of my books of the year. My thanks to netgalley and publishers Transworld for my advance reading e-copy.

  • Suze Lavender
    2018-12-24 23:03

    Noel is a very smart boy who is living in London with his godmother. When she becomes more and more forgetful Noel has to shoulder many responsibilities at a very young age. The German's are bombing London and it looks like the Second World War is going to take a while, so all the children need to be evacuated. At first Noel manages to stay, but then the inevitable happens to his godmother and he has to live somewhere else. His new carers think he will be safer elsewhere. He ends up with Vee, a woman who doesn't have a plan and who is all over the place. She's living with her mother and her useless son. Noel and Vee are very different. He's so smart that he has nothing in common with his classmates and he has a posh accent while Vee hasn't had much schooling and can barely write. When Vee is short of money she needs to think of something which isn't going very well. Until Noel helps her out. Together they are quite a good team. Noel has been evacuated, but that doesn't mean he's safe and secure at all. Will he and Vee manage to find their way together or will his life be an even bigger disaster than it already was?Crooked Heart is a beautiful story about an exceptionally clever boy and a woman without a purpose. They are actually really good for each other and they form a great team. Together Noel and Vee are working very well. I loved the interaction, their mutual plans and, in the end, their appreciation of each other. What they are doing might not be exactly legal, but they don't harm anyone and do have some kind of moral compass. The question what's right and what is wrong has been so beautifully answered in this book. At first it seems like Noel has had some very bad luck when he moves in with Vee, but gradually things start to change. Vee's son puts both of them in danger and I disliked his character very much. Because of him Vee has to make some tough choices. That changes her character and it makes her a better person, which was such a great thing to see. I highly recommend Crooked Heart, because it's a wonderful and strong story. It's definitely one of the best books I've read this year.

  • Bob Schnell
    2019-01-08 19:46

    Advanced Reading Copy review To be published July 28, 2015"Crooked Heart" is a dark comedy that could have been more aptly titled "Paper Moon Over England". Vera is a single mother to a layabout adult son and Noel is an orphaned evacuee from London during the Blitz. As individuals they are pretty hopeless, but they make a good team when it comes to running a charity scam. It seems everyone in Great Britain is running some sort of con in this novel and it can get a bit dangerous when one scheme runs afoul of another. I really enjoyed this book and found it hard to put down. The main characters are all flawed in some significant way but ultimately we relate to their idiosyncrasies . The author, Lissa Evans, has a flair for dialogue and setting that really bring wartime England and its various rural and urban characters to life. Funny, odd, touching and poignant, "Crooked Heart" is a winner.

  • Caroline
    2018-12-27 19:54

    I'm definitely not someone who seeks out books that can be described as 'heart-warming,' so I was wary of this book group choice. But it is also very funny, whip-smart clever, direct in exploring how grinding poverty and hunger can affect us, celebratory of suffragettes, and offers lovely and original descriptions. We had an interesting discussion about the moral quandaries and it presents to its characters. I appreciated that these were true to the age, experience and options of each person. It also is an insightful exploration of different ways of being a parent at different stages of life--and sometimes parenting one's parents. The characters are unique and delightfully quirky. Wonderful dialog. All in all, a very nice read when you can't take the news or Knausgaard any longer.

  • Karen
    2019-01-16 21:44

    As surprising as this sounds, this was a heartwarming tale. I know WWII Historical doesn’t immediately bring up thoughts of humor and a smile on your face as you finish reading, but Crooked Hearts did that. This very unlikely duo has stolen my heart.Ten year old Noel is being evacuated to a safe place. Due to bomb threats a lack of shelters, like many children, he is taken from the comfort of his home and placed with a foster family in a safe location. Except, Noel didn’t really have a comfortable home. Noel’s Godmother has just passed and the almost next-of-kin had no interest in another mouth to feed. Enter Vera, a woman with enough problems of her own. Widowed years ago she is now the sole caretaker to her mute mother and she is the mother of Donald, a listless man with no direction in life. When Noel witnesses a scheme Vera thought up to try to make money, Noel enlists himself to help her. Although they had nothing in common, their journey will lead them to common ground and a safety they create for themselves.I fell in love with Noel. Noel is a witty, charismatic boy with uncanny intelligence. The wisdom lent him by his godmother before she past has left him with a problem solving nature. He uses his first encounters with strangers to observe without interruption. This leaves people to think he may be slow or something. Noel is anything but slow! Vera, or Vee, is a bit hard to take at first. Once I learned her story it made sense that she would not welcome a strange child into her world. The two of them together is really magic. We get to learn a lot about Donald in this story as well. By venturing into places he shouldn’t, Donald gets himself into a whole mess of trouble.This was such a well written historical novel. Told entirely in 3rd person, I got a good look into the lives of these people. The places are described beautifully, not that they are exactly beautiful, but I got a real feel for the locations. Also, the language and customs were right on point. This story takes place in England during WWII, so the slang required me paying close attention. It might be a bit difficult for readers who, like me, aren’t used to it. Also, there were a few gaps in the story but mostly when we were focused on Vee, who was the type of person to just take someone at their word.I think the author hit on all the right points so we could picture the poverty and suffering that WWII produced. Through the characters journey I really got attached to Noel and Vee. I had a dislike for George, but his story was crucial to understanding Vee, I think. Also, George’s story talked about what happened to those boys that didn’t go off to war. The author injected black comedy into this story and it made me realize the scamming opportunities for those that were willing to bend the rules in this time period. I really enjoyed this read.

  • Beadyjan
    2018-12-26 21:13

    A completely captivating and utterly charming read. Set amidst the uncertainty and struggle of world war 2 it tells the story of young orphan, Noel an unprepossessing lad who has few friends, sticking out ears and a love of books and an extensive vocabulary which can make him come across as pompous.Noel has spent his formative years being brought up by his revered Aunt Mattie an opinionated ex suffragette. Watching her slide into senile dementia is a step too far for Noel and he becomes even more insular, meaning that when he is evacuated from London, he is one of the least likely youngsters to be placed in a warm and caring home. He ends up being billeted with the disorganised and brash Vee who always has an eye for making a penny or two (not always strictly above board) and her willingness to accept Noel into her home initially stems from an idea for a money making scam.In this none too homely billet live Vees, mother, with selective mutism who spends her days writing lengthy letters to people in power criticising the war efforts, and including irrelevant facts about her life.Also her son Donald, thoroughly unlikeable, but the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and he too has his eye on the main chance - to profiteer from the war.Vee and Noel thrwon together form a formidable duo and when they combine efforts they begin to have a grudging respect for one another.I like Vee, I thought she had a hard life and was making the best of things. The wartime descriptions seemes accurate and very atmospheric, I really felt as though I was there in the public air raid shelters and creeping about in the blackout with my barely there torch.I shed a little tear towards the end and for me, even though its a quick read it had something of The Book Thief the Book thief about it, I've also seen it compared to Good Night, Mr. Tom Goodnight Mr Tom and I agree if you enjoyed that book you'll probably love this also - I did and will be looking for more books by this, hitherto unknown to me, author.

  • ❀⊱Rory⊰❀
    2018-12-24 20:51

    Noel is a lonely, rather odd little boy evacuated out of London during World War II and Vee is the anxious, frazzled woman who takes him into her home. Their friendship doesn't begin well; it reminded me of this from Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse, "Each, in fact, was to the other a perpetual freak show, with no charge for admission." Eventually, after Noel proves to be a great help to Vee, things begin to change; "She was used to his conversation now, the long words, the oddity and arrogance; half the time she didn’t know whether to clout him or applaud."This book is well researched and beautifully written. It's funny, the humor dark, with an edge to it. It's a story about moral ambiguity, desperation, loneliness, guilt, injustice, and selfishness, but it's never heavy or hopeless. It takes a deft hand to write a poignant story like this one and not drag you down, and Lissa Evans has succeeded.

  • Vanessa Lafaye
    2019-01-05 18:56

    You can definitely tell that Evans is a comedy professional. This book hums with subtle humour on every page. It's really very, very funny a lot of the time, and touching without being sentimental. There are nuggets of joy throughout, in the deftly developed relationship between abandoned Noel and professional failure, Vee. Evans evokes the wartime period very well, especially the confusion and claustrophobia of the air raids. The point of view shifts around between the characters, giving the reader an insight into everyone's thoughts. I have only 2 quibbles: the first is the cover design, which really lets down the book. In my opinion, it neither draws you in nor represents the content. And the other is the ending, which seemed to me rather flat. I hear that a sequel is in the works, so maybe this is deliberate. In any case, this is a memorable story written with flair and a firm grip on period detail.

  • Rebecca
    2018-12-27 23:47

    I just wrote a really carefully developed rave review of this wonderful book and then the computer burped and it disappeared. I am very sad. However, it is a rare and lovely book: controlled, wry, funny, heart-breaking, and insightful. It's beautifully written--even the cover is gorgeous!--and I want to go buy myself a copy to keep. Evans manages to take us into Vee's and Noel's worlds, and she creates unprepossessing characters who eventually win our hearts. I plan to read her other books, too! Two great passages are on page 200 (about Vee's lazy son) and page 243 (where Vee reassures Noel about his guilt). . . but I haven't the heart to type them out again. Please, though, go buy a copy of this book, read it, and then give it to someone you love.

  • Mij Woodward
    2018-12-28 19:47

    What a delight to read.Every page a feast of comedic characters and situations.Though flawed, each character makes you want to root for them and their schemes. Noel, Vee, & Don. Mattie and Mrs. Gifford. They are endeared to me.Some might say the ending is too neat, too easy.But note to self: do not try to put a realistic sensible ending onto a hilarious plot. Just enjoy the ride.Oh, along the way, learn some things you have never thought of before, about WWII.Topnotch. Bravo. Thank you Lissa Evans for the best read of the year so far.

  • Bobbie
    2019-01-20 16:48

    I seem to be on a roll with WWII books and books about orphans lately, not intentionally but it has just happened. I would probably not have found this book except for it being assigned for our library book club. I am anxious to go to the meeting to hear the opinions of the other members. As for myself, this book really held my interest and I was drawn to this little orphan boy in a sad situation. As for the other characters, I had very little empathy for most of them and was appalled by the mistakes they were making in their lives. It is always appalling to hear of the ravages of war but especially on the children involved. However, I did enjoy this book and loved how the relationship grew between the boy and his foster mother. I am glad that I found this book.

  • Cleo Bannister
    2019-01-08 17:51

    This wasn’t what I expected at all although I knew it was set in WWII I didn’t expect the direction it took, and I dare anyone to read this and not fall in love the boy at the centre of the story, Noel.Noel is ten years old, lives with his godmother, Mattie in Hampstead. Mattie was a suffragette, a woman who enjoys giving Noel some of her hard-won lessons in sound-bites but she is also a woman, who is slowly becoming more and more forgetful. When his school is first evacuated Noel stays behind, spending his days with Mattie and at the library instead.“The day after that, all the children disappeared, as if London had shrugged and the small people had fallen off the edge.”Noel is incredibly bright, he loves the crime fiction, gobbling up stories about Sherlock Holmes and his ilk. The other children returned to London as nothing much had happened and then Mattie disappears and Noel ends up living with a stuffy couple nearby until the authorities act once again and another evacuation takes place, gas masks and sandwiches are packed along with clothing and the children board the train. This time Noel joins them, he may be clever but he suffers with a limp when he is tired, has sticky out ears and looks a bit simple – he is the penultimate child to find a home when he arrives with his classmates in St Albans. The billeting officer persuades Vee takes him into a home which she shares with her elderly mother, Flora and her son, Donald. Flora is another eccentric woman whilst Donald is what my mother would call ‘a lazy lump!’ This unusual household have moved around seemingly lurching from one financial crisis to the next while Flora writes impassioned letters about all and sundry to all and sundry, including the Prime Minister – the book is worth reading for these alone!“There was something peculiarly memorable about Vee; she seemed to move like the actors in silent films, all jerks and freezes.”What happens next is a money-making scheme which I can’t condone but at the same time secretly admire. The scheme is the beginning of a bond between Vee and Noel which is entirely heart-warming. In between this affection, what is depicted as happening in St Albans and the surrounding boroughs is probably fairly close to what often happened in war-time but is not so widely accepted as it flies in the face of a nation fighting as one. With evocative tales of nights spent sheltering from bombs in the underground stations and the following morning viewing the devastation that those bombs had wrought this is a tale that really defies any genre.A good read is one that holds a good sense of place and time, and this book does exactly that. With characters that are exceptionally well-drawn although the secondary characters are more lightly drawn, this is a book that illustrates how much we all need somebody even lazy Donald! Without a doubt it is the humour that stops the tale from becoming utterly mawkish.I’d like to thank the publishers Random House, for allowing me to read a copy of this fantastic and surprisingly affecting book, which was longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, 2015. Crooked Heart is to be published in paperback on 31 December 2015.

  • Anne
    2019-01-15 17:47

    There are lots of recently published books that are set during World War II, it would be easy to say that the subject has been done to death, and then, just when you don't expect it, you come across a story like Crooked Heart. This is a story that will pull the heartstrings with it's central character of Noel and his temporary mother Vera. Two characters who are original, and quirky and completely fabulous creations. Their story is like no other, it's charming and witty and will make you smile.Noel is a ten-year-old boy who has lived with his Godmother Mattie for most of his life. We don't know why he lived with her and not his parents, but she has moulded him into a tiny shadow of herself. Mattie was a suffragette, she didn't agree with school, or with war and Noel has had a most unusual childhood. The story begins with Mattie's demise into senile dementia, and Noel does his best to cover up for her, but it's clear that he can't carry on for much longer.When Mattie is no more, Noel finds himself evacuated to St Albans. He is billeted with Vera Sedge, her elderly mute mother and her lazy, fat son Donald. Once again, Noel finds himself living in a strange household, with very strange people. This family is so far away from anything that he knows, yet in Vera, he finds an unlikely friend. Both wily-minded, they work together to beat the system, and despite the troubles they encounter along the way, their unorthodox means of making a living bring them together and they become a family.Lissa Evans has a huge talent. Her characters are so vibrant, so lifelike and so damn funny. The plot races along at a great pace, with twists and turns and unexpected events along the way. War torn London, with the underground shelters, the spirit of the Blitz and the black market dealings of the less salubrious characters is a dream, so cleverly created, the reader is transported there within a couple of sentences.Crooked Heart is a joy to read, filled as it is with characters and places that are expertly drawn and a story that is exciting and vivid. A great story, I'd highly recommend it.

  • ColleenD
    2019-01-10 20:58

    What is the one thing that is more important than money, Noel?Taste. Hobbies are for people who don't read books. But Peter tended towards condescension because his father was in the army reserve. And because he had a father. When all the world is sad and greyAnd all your hope seems far awayLook up and see the sky so blueAnd know that joy is there for you.He had never been bored with Mattie, never, never, never and now he was bored all the time, all the time; it was unbearable, like following mile after mile of grey string, with nothing at the end of it but a grim, distant, adult version of himself. All things are difficult before they are easy, said Noel.All over my fooking boots, you fooking fooker! bellowed a northern voice.And his mother wore large hats and satin gloves, buttoned up to the elbow; he had three older sisters, all married, and when he went up to London in the Austin Tourer, he stayed at his club and dined late. She hadn't expected him to be pleased to see her, but it wasn't nice to see the panic in his eyes.You look all right, she said to him, shyly.It was like the rare occasions on which she's downed a whisky: a few seconds of wincing and then fireworks all the way. For a few moments in the garage, waiting for Harry to catch sight of her, she'd felt extraordinarily young, a sixteen-year-old wearing a bottle-green cloche and riding a borrowed bicycle over the ruts to Colney Heath. The act of actually speaking to him seemed to have had the opposite effect: she'd been flung forward, right over the handlebars and into middle age. Her back hurt.Struggle as a hobby, maybe - struggle as something she did when she wasn't sitting reading a book.A good wine. All other considerations are mere pretensions.You mean that collective safety's more important than collective morality?and he's a rottenstinkingdirtyTHIEF.Mattie said that we should celebrate each glad moment as it comes.