Crooked Heart is set during the London blitz, from which ten-year-old Noel, with his sticky-out ears and enormous vocabulary, is evacuated. He winds up with Vee, who is a bit of chancer, always looking out for a new way to make some slightly dodgy money.
She hasn’t been very successful and with the rent due, starts to get desperate, until Noel decides he can help. The two make a brilliant team and the novel traces their varying fortunes and budding relationship. Meanwhile, the blitz is raging and Noel, on discovering a terrible crime, is determined to see justice done, a decision that will put him in danger.
This is a wonderful story about how unusual times can forge the strangest of relationships and Evans creates some wonderfully original characters. There’s Vee's son, Donald, who has also found his own get-rich-quick scheme which can be possible only in wartime, as well as Vee’s mother who spends many hours writing to Churchill, giving him the benefit of her advice.
The novel is enriched by quirky humour and the writing is stunning, full of evocative imagery which is a delight to read. Crooked Heart has made the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction long-list (formerly the Orange Prize). Look out for the short-list early next week, with the winner announced on 3 June.
Posted by JAM
Catalogue link: Crooked Heart