About the Book
It’s late 1944. Hitler’s rockets are slamming down on London with vicious regularity and it’s the coldest winter in living memory. Allied victory is on its way, but it’s bloody well dragging its feet.
In a large house next to Hampstead Heath, Vee Sedge is just about scraping by, with a herd of lodgers to feed, and her young charge Noel ( almost fifteen ) to clothe and educate. When she witnesses a road accident and finds herself in court, the repercussions are both unexpectedly marvellous and potentially disastrous – disastrous because Vee is not actually the person she’s pretending to be, and neither is Noel.
The end of the war won’t just mean peace, but discovery…
These days I rarely take on review requests, but for this book I made an exception. I loved the first in the series Crooked Heart, and have only recently finished Old Baggage. Consequently I was delighted to be approached by the publishers and offered V for Victory ahead of publication.
Meeting Vee and Noel again, was wonderful. When we left them they were getting by as best they could, constantly wary of their deception being uncovered. Here, in the war torn Hampstead Heath of 1944, their back story is more established and Vee aka Margery Overs is running Green Shutters as a lodging house. It’s a move that gives her an aura of respectability and provides a ready made group of academically minded tutors for her ‘nephew’ Noel.
The book is very character driven, from the growth in confidence and blossoming of Vee and Noel, to the various lodgers and unexpected visitors, through to the re-emergence, of well loved characters (both real and remembered) from the preceding books.
Noel in particular, is a fabulous character, wise beyond his years, very sensible, literal, vocal and highly intelligent (he had Mattie as his role model!) but also thoughtful, kind, caring and always mildly anxious. The book sees him coming of age as he discovers that relationships can change, new ones can be forged and people are not always what they seem. His ability to forge a bond with those he meets results in a budding friendship with Winnie a local ARP warden. Another warm and wonderful character, made all the more important as she had been one of the happy band of Amazons in her youth – the group formed by Mattie (Noel’s deceased godmother). She becomes a gateway to Noel’s past with her memories of Mattie and also to the present via Ivy. That latter is a story you really do need to discover for yourself.
The character constantly lurking in the background is London itself. The author paints a very realistic picture of the chaos and loss wrought by the constant bombing raids, along with the stoic and heartbreaking work undertaken by the wardens, and the resilience of the community. It’s a well researched and evocative portrayal of life on the Home Front.
If you enjoy great storytelling, memorable characters and historical accuracy then this is one for you. While it can be read as a standalone, you’d be missing a trick not to read the preceding titles first. In fact I envy you, getting to read them for the first time. Lissa Evans writes with heart, and the joy of her books is that they are by turn comic, evocative and heartbreaking. She writes with an authenticity that envelops you into whatever scene she is describing so that you feel you’re there. V for Victory was no exception, it was full of Lissa’s warmth, wit and wisdom. There’s certainly scope for more to be written, so I’d like to think that this may not be the last we see of a growing cast of characters.
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About the Author
Lissa Evans grew up in the West Midlands. She comes from a family of voracious readers and spent most of her adolescence in the local library, thus becoming well read if not wildly popular.
After studying medicine at Newcastle University, she worked as a junior doctor for four years, before deciding to change to a career in which she wasn’t terrified the entire time; a job in BBC Radio light entertainment followed, and then a switch to television, where she produced and directed series including ‘Room 101’ and also ‘Father Ted’, for which she won a BAFTA.
Her first book, ‘Spencer’s List’ was published in 2002, and since then she has written four more novels for adults (one of which, ‘Their Finest Hour and a Half’, was filmed in 2017) and three novels for children. She lives in London with her husband and two daughters. She still reads voraciously.
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When Noel Bostock – aged ten, no family – is evacuated from London to escape the Blitz, he winds up in St Albans with Vera Sedge – thiry-six, drowning in debts. Always desperate for money, she’s unscrupulous about how she gets it.
The war’s thrown up all manner of new opportunities but what Vee needs is a cool head and the ability to make a plan. On her own, Vee’s a disaster. With Noel, she’s a team.
Together they cook up an idea. 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 . . .
It is 1928. Matilda Simpkin, rooting through a cupboard, comes across a small wooden club – an old possession of hers, unseen for more than a decade.
Mattie is a woman with a thrilling past and a chafingly uneventful present. During the Women’s Suffrage Campaign she was a militant. Jailed five times, she marched, sang, gave speeches, smashed windows and heckled Winston Churchill, and nothing – nothing – since then has had the same depth, the same excitement.
Now in middle age, she is still looking for a fresh mould into which to pour her energies. Giving the wooden club a thoughtful twirl, she is struck by an idea – but what starts as a brilliantly idealistic plan is derailed by a connection with Mattie’s militant past, one which begins to threaten every principle that she stands for.
Old Baggage is a funny and bittersweet portrait of a woman who has never, never given up the fight.
In a man’s world, it’s up to Catrin Cole to lift the spirits of a nation…
It’s 1940. In a small advertising agency in Soho, Catrin writes snappy lines for Vida Elastic and So-Bee-Fee gravy browning. But the country is in peril, all skills are transferable and there’s a place in the war effort for those who have a knack with words.
Catrin is conscripted into the world of propaganda films. After a short spell promoting the joy of swedes for the Ministry of Food, she finds herself writing dialogue alongside scriptwriter Tom Buckley, for a heart-warming but not-quite-true story of rescue and romance on the beaches of Dunkirk.
And as bombs start to fall on London, she discovers that there’s just as much drama, comedy and love behind the scenes as there is in front of the camera . . .
Odd One Out
Some are born odd, some achieve oddness and some are just in the wrong place at the wrong time…
Netta Lee had always felt like the odd one out growing up. But when, as an adult, she returns to the Midlands to help her family move house, it becomes apparent that perhaps she isn’t the unusual one after all. A brother with a penchant for rubbish collection, a mother who seems to think she’s running the Bolshoi Ballet rather than the local junior dance school and a hoard of questionably competent friends challenge Netta’s ordered world.
Perhaps the life – and the people – she tried so hard to leave behind are not as distant as she thought.
Some people live life in the fast lane. Others have stalled and are waiting for assistance on the side of the road, sustained only by the piece of chewing gum they’ve just found in the glove compartment.
Spencer’s ex-lover has died, leaving him a lizard and a list of things to do before the end of the year.
Spencer’s friend Fran shares a house and a mortgage with her brother and his girlfriend, a woman with delicate wrists and a bloated cat.
Fran’s neighbour Iris is slave to the three men in her life: an aging father who likes the phone and two teenage sons who cannot fathom the washing machine.
Maybe it’s not about living life in the fast lane. It’s about learning to live at all.
Spencer’s List is a wonderfully funny tale of life lived on the edge – of reason, of failure and of (just possibly) a brighter future.