Published by HarperCollins on July 28th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Literary, Historical
ARC provided by TLC Book Tours
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. . . .
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.