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January book club - Crooked Heart

(101 Posts)
GrannyGlyn Wed 23-Dec-15 17:30:37

Thank you for my copy of Crooked Heart that arrived today.
Looks like just the thing to read between Christmas and New Year.

sedgwick20 Wed 20-Jan-16 17:26:22

Loved Crooked Heart! Lissa was a new author to me and it's always exciting to come across such a talent. Will be looking out for her other books. Thank you so much for giving me the chance to read her book.

Nana3 Thu 21-Jan-16 07:35:22

Thanks for a good story Lissa, this is more of a comment than a question, but leaving Noel in Vee's care doesn't bode well for his future, I'm still worried for him.

welshmaiden Fri 22-Jan-16 12:41:02

thank you for the Crooked Heart thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel, something a little different and keeps you involved the whole way through!

Angela1961 Sun 24-Jan-16 19:38:13

How do we join and receive the books please ? I'm an avid reader.

Nana3 Sun 24-Jan-16 22:51:02

Hello Angela if you click on Books on the top index you will come on the February book club title and what you have to do to apply for a copy. Not everyone gets one so you may have to get your own. People start posting as soon as they arrive.
No need to join just post about the book or ask the author a question.
Good luck.

cathisherwood Tue 26-Jan-16 09:01:18

Such a good read. Most books describing this period focus on the community pulling together through the hard times united in their stand against Hitler but these characters are mostly out for what they can get for themselves.
I have to reflect on how times have changed and how we now try to make it difficult for children to slip through the net and for adults to take on other identities but I fear we still have a long way to go.
You can imagine a Noel of this age becoming a computer hacker. I hope he did go back to school after the war and made his way to Oxford but Vee is hardly the ideal substitute mother and it is difficult to imagine a bright future for this pair
I will now look out for her other books as I enjoyed this one so much

Inthepink06 Thu 28-Jan-16 19:00:11

Hi I enjoyed Crooked Heart, I wanted to know more about his family and their connection to Mattie. There may even be a sequel in that we could see how "Mar" and Noel survive and prosper

LissaEvans Fri 29-Jan-16 18:31:36

mbody

I received my copy on Christmas Eve which made a wonderful present. I have just finished reading it and have enjoyed it. I would really like to know what happens to Noel and Vee after the war, a sequel perhaps?

I'll be writing both a prequel (about Mattie) and a sequel, set about three years after Crooked Heart,

LissaEvans Fri 29-Jan-16 18:37:13

GrandmaH

Thank you for this lovely book. I read it really quickly as it gripped me from the start. I've never read anything else by Lissa Evans but I will look for more now.
Such a heart warming story although no-one in this book was perfect- some were very far from it. Most of them were on the make for some reason but I'm sure that during the war it was this way for a lot of people- times were hard.
I'd love to know if Lissa based some of these scams on things she had heard actually happened or just imagined them. Especially the lad who took medicals for men who wanted to avoid the call-up - that must have been based on truth.
I loved the letter writing Gran too- I can well believe that happened quite a lot!
Perfect first read of the year! I'll do it with my Reading Group this year.

Yes, I came across all of these scams in the course of research; the stand-in with the heart condition was particular lucrative – one man was making over £100 per medical! Looting by officials (police & wardens) was also surprisingly common though not, thank goodness, as common as honesty and bravery…

LissaEvans Fri 29-Jan-16 18:38:21

aspella

Thanks for sending me a copy of Crooked Heart, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this poignant story which made me smile and feel sad at the same time. Hope I'm not too late to ask the author some questions.

WARNING SPOILER ALERT - don't read my questions if you haven't finished reading the book would hate to spoil the ending.

1. Do you plan to write any more stories featuring characters from this book? Aileen Gifford and Mattie sounded a right hoot and I'd like to read more about they exploits during the suffragette movement. If you have no plans for a sequel then why didn't you add another chapter to the book telling us what Noel/Vee and Donald/Hilde were up to three/four years after the war ended? Did Vee eventually make it all legal and above board and stop living a lie.

2. Why did you place Noel back in a similar situation to the one he was in at the beginning of the story - living in a house with only an old woman for company and having to withhold the true from the outside world.

3. Why didn't you create more of a rapport between Noel and Mr Clare the bookshop owner? Was the reason because Noel had limited interaction with male role models growing up or because they were from different social classes.

4. Did you have any qualms about having Vee take on the identity of a dead person?

5. Have you had any first hand experience of dementia in your family/friends as I thought this was portrayed very well in the book.

1. Yes, I’m writing a prequel about Mattie, and a sequel about Noel and Vee, set towards the end of the war.
2. This is hard to answer – the book finds its own shape as I write it, and it just seemed the right conclusion to the story…
3. Again, a hard one to answer, but I think it’s because Noel doesn’t make friendships easily; he’s very self-contained.
4. Changing identity during the Blitz was both tempting and relatively easy for those with something to hide, and Vee had a lot to hide…
5. No direct experience, no, but over the years I have met many people who either suffer from dementia, or are carers for those who do…

LissaEvans Fri 29-Jan-16 18:39:31

myk

Evans presents the reader with a bit of a moral dilemma in this novel. The two principle characters are far better than most of the others and their relationship is one that develops during the course of the story, going to a place that neither would have thought possible at the beginning.

In a sense they are not fully formed people and only become so, individually and as a pair, once they meet up and put their 'talents' together. However, where they are successful, but only in the short term, is not exactly legal. In fact, if it wasn't that the Blitz was just about to start (prompting the evacuation of Noel from the centre of London and his subsequent billeting with Vera) and the attention of the authorities being diverted elsewhere, there's very little likelihood that they would have been able to get to the end of the story without a meeting with the judicial system.

But they're not the only ones who are dabbling in illegality. War provides a great opportunity for some people to strike it rich, from the arms manufacturer getting his fill from the trough to the little con men (and women and boys) at the bottom. As with all cases of corruption (even the kind that's considered 'legal') it breeds a feeling of 'what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander'.

Even in the favourable times of the war they aren't necessarily going to benefit. Others are more mean and avaricious than they are and what was seen as a nest egg gets used to save an equally immoral conman who, through his own arrogance and stupidity, put himself in a dangerous situation. An ungrateful and deserting mother makes St Albans not a welcoming place to stay (if it ever was) and our duo of heroes find their place in London, where an unrecognised inheritance makes life easier than at first thought, though why the need to resurrect the dead I don't know.

Evans bangs the militant suffragette drum by introducing two women (although by the time of WWII a little bit doolally), one who formed Noel and the other who brings back memories of the first, both of whom had medals of honour from the conflict with the authorities. Although Noel is obviously an intelligent young lad he hadn't imbibed the skill of analysis from all his reading as he trots out the mantra of parliamentary cretinism when he criticises Vera for not voting. The Suffragettes should have also fought for something to vote for rather than just the opportunity of marking a cross on a piece of paper – even the most illiterate can do than.

By the end of the novel they are both 'settled' in the way you can be during a war; the Blitz has come to an end and the tide will soon turn (with the sacrifice and efforts of the Soviet Union) but we can see that Vera is already thinking up other scams. Will there be a second book in this series?

I’m going to write both a prequel and a sequel – the first telling Mattie’s story, and the second picking up the story of Noel and Vee about three years later, towards the end of the war.

LissaEvans Fri 29-Jan-16 18:41:06

rocketstop

Hi Lissa,
I, like others here, really think there could be a sequel to crooked heart.
I loved how you described the heartfelt feelings of Noel as he pined in a very low key way for Mattie. It was very touching how he carried on with her little sayings and witticisms as a way of keeping her alive.
Did you have a Mattie character in your life that you have missed, but who perhaps you have kept 'Alive' through the book ?
Good luck with your writing and I look forward to seeing what you come up with next !

The first novel I ever wrote (Spencer’s List) was written out of grief after the death of a friend – the title character has also lost a friend, and it’s about how he copes in the year that follows (the title refers to the list of tacky London tourist attractions that his friend ordered him to visit). So yes, I had a ‘Mattie’, and I can identify with Noel’s determination to keep her memory fresh.

LissaEvans Fri 29-Jan-16 18:43:59

GrannyGlyn

Brilliant book really enjoyed it and will be passing it on to my mother-in-law.
I'm going to see if I can get any other of Lissa's books.

May I ask what Lissa's next project is going to be?

I’m a few thousand words into the prequel to Crooked Heart, which is all about Mattie. I’ve also just finished a children’s book, which will be published next year.

LissaEvans Fri 29-Jan-16 18:45:05

Gagagran

I admired the way that the two main characters, Vee and Noel found in each other something that the other needed. Vee had a need to nurture and Noel was in dire need of that, after being left all alone in the world. It would have been interesting to know about his parentage and how Mattie became his Godmother and sole carer. Did Lissa deliberately leave that out?

This was a real page-turner, well researched and informative about the home front.

Mattie only appears in the book in conjunction with Noel – as far as he’s concerned, she is his entire family, and he has no interest in his past, so I didn’t explore it at that point. Now, however, I’m writing a novel which explores how the two of them came together…

LissaEvans Fri 29-Jan-16 18:45:46

Grannyjacq1

I have just finished reading this novel and really enjoyed it. It is unusual to find a novel about the Second World War and the blitz having so much humour at the heart of it. The precocious evacuee, Noel, was most engaging - in fact he reminded me of several young boys I used to teach at a Grammar School - oozing language and ideas, full of life. His relationship with Vee at the core of the novel was unusual, but strangely credible. I particularly liked some of the earlier sections of the novel when he was with the eccentric Mattie, another character I found fascinating - in fact I wondered if there was a prequel to the novel about this pair and how they came to be together. The way he coped with her dementia was very moving.
I felt that the style of writing was wonderful, perfectly evoking the period in which it was set. Images such as the one when Noel runs out of books to read and the time 'stretched like knicker elastic' or the sky being 'the colour of cold cocoa' - a stunning visual image which perfectly conjured up the sky before a storm. Such wonderful observations.
I wonder if Lissa Evans knew anyone like Mattie or Vee - or Noel?
There were also interesting moral dilemmas underpinning the novel, involving Noel and Vee's 'collection tins' and the warden stealing possessions from Mrs Gifford - another fascinating character. Moral compass spinning in all directions here.
The only criticism I have is that the relationship between Donald and Hilde didn't quite ring true - these seemed to be caricatures rather than characters, but did not detract from what is a superb novel.
Thank you for enticing me to read it. I hadn't heard of Lissa Evans, but will certainly try some of her other novels. A very talented writer.
I'm going off to make a 'glad moment' cake now -what a wonderful idea!

Mattie and Vee and Noel seemed to arrive in my brain fully formed; I don’t think they’re based on anyone in particular, though – as with all characters – I’ve probably taken snippets from life.

LissaEvans Fri 29-Jan-16 18:46:57

joannapiano

I usually avoid novels based on WW2,(apart from Life After Life by Kate Atkinson which I love), but this is a lovely ,entertaining book.
It was made extra interesting for me, as we live fairly near St Albans, and I read about Vee and Noel's exploits in Harpenden, Bricket Wood and Watford.
I was curious as to what happened to Noel's parents, that he had to live in Hampstead with Mattie. Did it mention that in the story?
I didn't realise there were evacuees in St Albans, as I know that some bombs were dropped on the railways sidings there, and Hatfield was bombed quite heavily because of the DeHavilland factory.
I shall now read the author's other books.

I’m going to cover the story of how Noel came to live with Vee in my next book (for which I haven’t yet thought of a title!)
I too was surprised to find that there were evacuees in St Albans, but there really were hundreds of them, many from the Chalk Farm area of London, which is where I live, and where Noel goes to live with his encle and aunt. The St Albans newspaper of the era was always reporting on the exploits of evacuees, both good (winning singing competitions, enjoying Christmas parties) and bad (forming ‘gangs’ and carrying out petty crimes…) There were also numerous European refugees in the district.

LissaEvans Fri 29-Jan-16 18:49:16

Rosannie

I loved Crooked Heart, thank you for choosing the book and for introducing me to an author that I have never read before. Lissa Jewell has created believable main characters who were real, vulnerable and resiliant in there unusual domestic situations. The context of the second World War and the Blitz brought the two main characters together and it provided a very interesting and informative picture of how difficult life was at that time.
Where did Lissa do most of her research and where did the idea of two such contrasting characters come from?

I’ve been interested in the Home Front ever since the age of 14, when I read a marvellous book called ‘How We Lived Then’ by Norman Longmate, which brings together reminiscences about all aspects of home front life, and goes into the most fascinating detail on everything from hair dye to how vicars got hold of communion wine! Researching Crooked Heart, I spent a lot of time reading 1940-41 editions of ‘The Herts Advertiser and St Albans Times’ which provided a patchwork of stories that reflected all aspects of wartime provincial life, with bomb news and black-out advice nudging shoulders with accounts of Masonic Social Nights and lists of people being prosecuted for defaulting on the rates.
As for the contrasting characters, they just seemed to spring up, fully formed!

LissaEvans Fri 29-Jan-16 18:51:25

cikada

Tank you agan for the "Crooked Heart" , I have now finished reading it and thorougly enjoyed it. Loved how the two main characters met and over time grew fond of each other. What was the reason for the title "Crooked Heart"?

I found it really difficult to think of a title for this book; ideally I wanted to subvert a wartime quote, as I’d done for my previous novel ‘Their Finest Hour and a Half’ but nothing came to mind. Then I came across a quote from WH Auden: ‘You shall love your crooked neighbour with your crooked heart' and I loved the allusion to crime, to love and to the idea of doing one’s best. It also covers Donald’s ‘dodgy’ heart!

LissaEvans Fri 29-Jan-16 18:52:35

Nana3

Thanks for a good story Lissa, this is more of a comment than a question, but leaving Noel in Vee's care doesn't bode well for his future, I'm still worried for him.

I’m going to be writing a sequel, set towards the end of the war...

nickamram Mon 01-Feb-16 23:18:48

I have just finished my copy of Crooked Heart and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the quirky characters and the journey that Noel and Vee took when fate threw them together. I'm so pleased to hear that there will be more books following their stories, I will be waiting with baited breath for them to come out.

celebgran Wed 17-Feb-16 20:40:25

I finished crooked heart last week. When couldnt sleep! It was good story, was nice to see the bond develop between evacuee and his foster mum, rather sad the way things went with her own son, enjoyable read,

Molly10 Tue 23-Feb-16 19:00:45

Better late than never...hopefully.
Thank you for my copy of Crooked Heart which, due to Christmas and illness, I did not get to read till recently. I loved this book. There was great characterisation, even flawed Vee came to life on the page and you couldn't help but like her. The pace was perfect and the book an easy flowing read which is a mark of a good book in it's simplicity. I'm glad to hear that Lissa is doing both a prequel and sequel of which I look forward to reading both. I also note that she says she is a few thousand words in on Mattie's story which is set 3 years on. I think that is the perfect time but if Lissa is still reading comments could I request she put some reference to Vee or Mattie and Vee's relationship into this book as I think that would sit well. Thank you again. Hopefully I will not be so tardy if I receive any more book copies.

Molly10 Tue 23-Feb-16 19:03:11

Doh, sorry. Of course I meant Noel and Vee's relationship above not Mattie and Vee.

Molly10 Tue 23-Feb-16 19:04:37

Double doh, sorry. Noel's story not Mattie's above.

sylwright Fri 04-Mar-16 15:11:04

Sorry for the late post, almost finished the book and am thoroughly enjoying it.

So glad to see LissaEvans is writing a prequel and a sequel, I very much look forward to reading more about these characters.