I tend to avoid World War II novels because of their ubiquity and ubiquitous depressing nature. But with the well-deserved success of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and this positively lovely, totally enjoyable novel by Lissa Evans, WWII literature seems to be turning a new leaf. Like the former, a monumental bestseller, Crooked Heart features a pair of quirky protagonists who exist at the borders of the war. Where Doerr's wonderful novel is heartbreaking and touching, Evans' is funny and touching. We all know I'm an anglophile, and Crooked Heart contains a healthy dose of that British humor I love so much.
Noel, a ten-year-old boy, lives with his godmother in London, with no other living relations to be found. Mattie is brilliant and eccentric, traits her godson either comes by honestly or learns from her, or perhaps both. But dementia begins to set in just as the Blitz looms over the horizon, and Noel is left effectively alone in the world. Evacuated to St. Albans along with the rest of his class, he is picked up by Mrs. Sedge, who is quite a character herself. Born of mean circumstances and never able to get herself out of them, Mrs. Sedge supports her mute mother and lazy son by means both honest and not so honest. The addition of an evacuee means a little extra cash and food rations, and that's that. Not exactly taken with each other, Noel and Mrs. Sedge eventually find their equilibrium, in between various capers.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, funny and refreshing and realistic. Mrs. Sedge and Noel are described delightfully, easy to picture and populate in one's mind and, though far from perfect either of them, utterly charming. This is a little gem of a novel, and would make a great book club read as well.