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.
I brought this home for the Easter holidays, having seen it around and about quite a lot. I’ve been following the author, Lissa Evans, on Twitter, since my friend directed me towards her Storify list of books she likes. Despite having read the blurb, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. As it turned out, I loved it. It’s got all sorts of draws: the Blitz, criminal activity, unusual family structures, suffragettes, unpopular precocious children, dementia, morality, mystery, japes. It’s great fun, made me laugh as well as feel incredibly sad (and triggered a nightmare about being caught in an air raid), and I really liked the characters. I’m catsitting at the moment, so I raced through it, finishing it in the sunshine on Tuesday afternoon. I’ll be giving it to my mum as soon as I get home, because I know she’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
On my way home from meeting a friend for lunch on Wednesday, I hopped off the bus to go to Waterstones, for a book to tide me over until the end of the week. I ended up coming home with four – a travel guide to Croatia for my trip in the summer, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, and State Of Wonder and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Whoops.