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 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. . . .
British author Evans makes her American debut in this Baileys Women's Prize longlisted dark comedy with heart, set in London during World War II. After the death of his beloved godmother Mattie, a former suffragette whose keen intellect had begun to buckle under dementia just as the Blitz commenced, 10-year-old Noel Bostock is evacuated to a suburb of London. He is placed with Vera Sedge, a middle-aged widow who has designs on using Noel, who limps, to elicit sympathy for her small-time con game, exploiting ordinary people's generosity during wartime for her own ends. Vera's grown son, Donald, is running his own racket, helping enlisted men fail their medical exams. Noel's precociousness, combined with the distrust of authority instilled in him by Mattie, makes him a difficult child for many adults to like, and though Vera has enough of her own troubles, somehow the two of them awkwardly but endearingly find a connection. Evans, who has published several children's books, is especially adept at capturing Noel's appealing blend of sophisticated bravado and naive fragility all without lapsing into sentimentality. Most valuable, though, is the tragicomic portrayal of the petty betrayals and profound losses that characterized ordinary people's everyday wartime experiences.