The next book we’re reading at the Field Notes Book Group, on June 24, 2017, is Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans. It’s a novel set during the Blitz in World War II London and the surrounding area.
Noel Bostock, our protagonist (one of our protagonists), is a unique young man. He’s ten years old, an orphan, brought up by his godmother, a former suffragist (with the pins and the scars to prove it), who had fairly liberal and unconventional ideas for how he should be raised, which included opposition to all wars and a refusal to send him away from London during the Blitz. As a result of his unusual upbringing, Noel doesn’t really fit in with anyone, peers or older people. This proves to be a problem when he is evacuated with all the rest of his school to the suburbs west of London. While other kids are snapped up by willing host families, he ends up one of the last to be chosen, by one Vera Sedge, a thirty-something widow in difficult circumstances.
Vera’s quite a character, too: she’s always in desperate need of money, and she’s not too careful about what she’s willing to do to get it. She’d be a grifter if she could; she certainly tries to be one, but she’s too nervous and too bad at planning and reading people to con people with any success. She’s living with her mother and her son, neither of whom is any help to her, and at first she figures the last thing she needs is this peculiar evacuee.
But Noel turns out to have some of the qualities Vee is lacking, and when the two of them find their rhythm, they’re quite a successful team, though with some quirks.
Imagine Paper Moon set during the Blitz, with the genders reversed, and you’re beginning to get a sense of what the book is like. The characters are vivid and believable (with all their oddities), and the setting is so realistically depicted that you feel as if you’re there, behind the blackout curtains, huddled in bomb shelters or wandering through a darkened and damaged landscape. It’s a quick read, and will lead to interesting discussions.
Come and join us at 11:00 a.m. (through 12:30 p.m.) on Saturday, June 24, at the Field Library Gallery, for discussion and coffee and donuts. Copies of the book will be available at the Circulation Desk by Memorial Day.