Noel had been brought up by his elderly godmother Mattie, whose disdain for authority and general social niceties she manages to instill into Noel. However her decline into dementia and then her death leave Noel with no real home and mourning the loss of the only friend in his life. His evacuation with a classroom of children he had nothing in common with, is almost a pleasant alternative to staying with Mattie’s relatives.
Meanwhile in St Albans, Vera Sedge lives with an indulged and less than helpful son and a mother who spends her time writing letters. As she makes money by whatever means she can, legal or otherwise, taking in Noel with his limp and jug ears, is initially seen as a means of eliciting sympathy and hopefully money.
From this inauspicious start, an unlikely and profitable alliance is formed. Noel uses his guile and intelligence to perfect Vera’s schemes and their relationship develops and has consequences that neither could have predicted.
I loved this book. The characters were all really well drawn from the delightful Noel and his beloved Mattie, to Vera’s oddball mother and her indolent son. Vera herself should have been a character I disliked, because of her iniquitous activities, but surprisingly I didn’t. As her relationship developed with Noel I found myself ignoring the criminality of what they were doing and concentrating on their growing friendship. It also began to create a change in their wider lives as they gave each other support and confidence.
The actual setting of the book during the blitz was inspired as it was the perfect backdrop for their activities to thrive. It was also really well written to give a real flavour of what life was like at the time. It presented a very real picture of life with rationing, air raids and bombings combined with a make the best of things spirit that pervaded the period.
This book has everything that a good story should have memorable characters, great plot, pathos, drama, and for me an ending that offers me the resolution that I want. I have no hesitation in recommending this heartwarming and at times heartbreaking book.
I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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