Paper Moon meets the Blitz in this original black comedy, set in World War II England, chronicling an unlikely alliance between a small-time con artist and a young orphan evacuee.
When Noel Bostock - aged 10, no family - is evacuated from London to escape the Nazi bombardment, he lands in a suburb northwest of the city with Vera Sedge - a 36-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....
©2015 Lissa Evans (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers
This novel puts a flawed but human face on the good, the bad and the ugly of WWII England survival and family life. At first I hated the characters and thought seriously twice of abandoning the book. I encourage others to keep going with the story and push past the unlikable early few hours of listening. To me, it was more than worth it in the end. The writing is pithy, funny, poignant and really good.
The narration was top notch. Perfect timing, accents and voice changes for different characters. The excellent narration was the driving force behind my sticking with the book.
Recommended if you are interested in stories about WWII and life during the Blitz. Engaging, balanced and touching without any sugary sweetness. This was a book I went from really just hating to loving over the course of listening. Excellent.
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
Going into this I think I had an idea it might be a riff on Oliver Twist and Fagin, but that wasn’t the case (thankfully). But this also wasn’t a hearty pep rally for noble sacrifices made during the Blitz. This showed the seamier side of people already living on slim margins made nearly unbearable by wartime shortages and restrictions. Creative survival was not always nice and was often dark, ugly and dangerous.
Vera Sledge’s acceptance of orphan Noel as her foster evacuee was no altruistic wartime contribution – it was an opportunity to exploit him for fraudulent fund raising. Thing is, everyone else in the picture was finding their own way to scam the system – Vera’s son, shopkeepers, the Home Guard - everyone seemed to be on the make. Half way through the story I wondered where was London’s make-do resilience? The stiff upper lip for King and Country? I couldn’t feel connected to anyone – mainly because none of the characters really connected emotionally to each other. It was All for One as long as the One is Me.
But there are shades of right and wrong, and Noel can make the distinction between what was legally wrong but morally right, and what was just plain wrong. Within the grey areas of their enterprise, Noel becomes the voice of conscience demanding justice for crimes committed out of greed and malice. As Vera found the beginnings of an affection for him, I began to find an affection for her. When Noel is in peril she shakes out of her self-absorbed anxiety to save him, and finally I was all-in. My take on the story improved exponentially. Karen Cass’s 10 star narration covered differences in accents, ages and genders with a light touch that avoided overacting and caricature. I enjoyed this listen more than I would likely have done reading the text. In the end, a fond recommendation.
I almost didn't want to keep listening because I didn't want the story to end. The narrator is outstanding, making clearly delineated characters with a variety of British accents. The story centers around a child evacuee during the London Blitz in WWII but is really so much more. While it gives a very good picture of what the blitz was like it also shows the many sides of human nature during a life-and-death period during England's "finest hour." I especially enjoyed the touches of humor.
It was a nice story but difficult to follow in audio. The different stories bounce back and forth and causes a blur of characters and plot. Not too bad but enough to confuse for a moment or two.
Wow, this is really a nice surprise. There are SO many books about WWII, and this one finds a way to be a bit different. Humorous and emotional. The characters are great, not perfect, and some aren't even likable, but each one is interesting. Absolutely first rate narration !
This one really deserves 3.5 stars. It's a good story, fairly predictable in many ways. However, the language is a particular delight (e.g., "his teeth were like old toenails") and Vera's character is brilliantly depicted.
I do think that the narration takes this one up a full star. Cass does a brilliant job with accents that play with class, gender, age and even country. Pure joy to listen to.
Retired teacher and interpreter. I read classic and contemporary fiction, as well as Mystery/Suspense/Horror, Fantasy&Sci-fi.
Noel is ten years old, he is clever and precocious, he has no friends his age and he lives with his increasingly erratic elderly godmother. He is never bored with Mattie. They go to the museum, she sets him areas of study and has him write essays on diverse subjects, and she regales him with stories of her years as a suffragette. But now Hitler is dropping bombs on London and Mattie is starting to frighten Noel...
This is a fantastic novel, about how things come apart, and how they come together. Set in Blitz London, I really love the background story, which brings out the best and the worst in people.
Loves purple, loves good books
Yes - LOVED IT! It's heartwarming, humorous, and quirky. The two main characters, Noel and Vee, are so very opposite, and somehow are thrown together and form a strong bond. Vee has struggled all her adult life, taking care of her unmotivated son and her demanding mother, and has made some very odd choices to earn money. She is aided in this task by Noel, the unusual and highly-intelligent evacuee. At first, their bond is more of convenience, but as Noel gives advice and Vee takes it, they start to really care about each other.
The narrator MADE this story. She was perfect.
At the end, when Vee asks Noel if he would be willing to leave St. Alban's, his response was priceless.
Legally wrong, morally right? I think that's a line in the book.
One review called it a "black comedy." That's a good label. The activities Noel and Vee engage in a definitely unethical, but pretty humorous. Noel uses his intellect to help a scatter-brained woman embark on a new "business."
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