World War II is in vogue right now (All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale), and Crooked Heart can now join their ranks. It's the story of ten-year-old Noel, who is evacuated from London during the Blitz. He is taken in by a skittish widow named Vee, who figures she might make a little money through charitable donations and catch up on her debts. The war seems far away at first, but then its effects begin to be felt in the little village of St. Albans. There are humorous moments in the lives of these wonderful characters, but the story is grounded in reality, and ultimately it's about what it means to be a family.
Paper Moon meets the Blitz in this original black comedy, set in World War II England, chronicling an unlikely alliance between a small time con artist and a young orphan evacuee.
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. . . .
“I try not to say, ‘If there’s one novel you should read this summer..’ but Crooked Heart tempts me to say it.”
“Glorious. I loved every line of this book.”
“Evans’ exceptionally engaging “Crooked Heart” brings effervescent wit and oddball whimsy to a venerable formula....The entire novel is a joy from start to finish: briskly paced, taut and snappy with humor and, ultimately, sweet.”
“At the crooked heart of this lovely novel is an odd-couple relationship reminiscent of Moses and Addie in the film Paper Moon, between an odd, clever, and lonely boy and a dodgy, desperate woman. Their reliance on each other is credible, touching and funny.”
“I loved this book. Lissa Evans is a wonderful writer; Vee and Noel are utter originals, and their journey made me laugh and cry.”
“In ‘Crooked Heart,’ Lissa Evans’s absorbing and atmospheric comic novel, another quietly heroic orphan joins the canon….This is a wonderfully old-fashioned Dickensian novel, with satisfying plot twists….Both darkly funny and deeply touching….It’s a crooked journey, straight to the heart.”
“The most purely charming read of the summer…. The novel’s heart may be crooked, but it is completely in the right place. And if wanting a happy ending for this offbeat pair is wrong, I can’t imagine a reader on earth who would want to be right.”
“A heartwarming tale about a lonely young boy and a cunning middle-aged woman who find solace in each other.”
“Crooked Heart explores the Blitz during World War II from two utterly inventive perspectives…. A charming, slanted counterpoint to Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.”
“Evans tidily unfolds a satisfying plot…. But it’s the over-arching development of the lost little boy and the harried woman’s affection and admiration for one another that really tugs the reader’s own heart crooked.... There’s great galloping joy in it.”
“Entertaining … The story starts in the London blitz, in a dazzling, tragicomic prologue…. Crooked Heart is a dark comedy, moving between drollery, pathos, farce and harrowing moments of tragic insight.”
“In conjuring a vivid portrait of two lost souls -- Vera Sedge, a petty criminal, and Noel Bostock, orphan and boy genius -- who find an unlikely kinship amid the privation of wartime London, Evans has written a sensitive, intelligent novel that revises Sartre’s old axiom: Home is other people.”
“Deceptively complex and utterly charming.”
“[A] dark comedy with heart….[Evans] is especially adept at capturing Noel’s appealing blend of sophisticated bravado and naive fragility-all without lapsing into sentimentality. Most valuable, though, is the tragicomic portrayal of the petty betrayals and profound losses that characterized ordinary people’s everyday wartime experiences.”
“With not a single combatant and only a few bombs, Lissa Evans has written a wonderful novel about the Second World War. Her two main characters are utterly irresistible, as is their unlikely alliance; I was cheering them on with every page.”
“Cherishable…. Engaging and comic, Evans’ U.S. debut takes a different slant on Britain during World War II….Aided by spot-on dialogue and low-key charm, Evans does a noticeably good job of spanning a wide range of emotional notes, from genuine sadness to absurd humor.”
“An absolute dream of a book … joyful and wonderful - I completely and utterly loved it.”
“Crooked Heart is tender, humane, funny, comforting and touching. Escapism in the best possible way. I loved it.”
“This autumn’s feel-good novel teams up two unlikely characters at the outbreak of World War II…. Evans has written an old-fashioned comedy of manners, which is heartwarming, without being mawkish, and extremely funny.”
“I’m pretty sure that Crooked Heart shows the real, practical, opportunistic, Blitz spirit. The chaotic, semi-feral teaming up of Vera and Noel is as sparky and funny charming and touching, but then every now and again comes the vertiginous feeling of peering into something unutterably, dangerously sad.”
“What will become of this fragile, touching pair? It’s a mark of how charming this novel is that you worry…. Even hard-bitten book reviewers occasionally feel a moisture around the eyes. I did.”
“I’m putting Crooked Heart on the shelf of my most treasured books, between I Capture the Castle and The Pursuit of Love.”
“Beautifully written, moving, funny -- just perfect. I don’t usually like novels about the Second World War—I think ‘what’s the point? The true stories are so good’—but this one, and Evelyn Waugh, are way up in a class of their own. Superb.”