Tuesday, September 15, 2020

V for Victory, by Lissa Evans

V for Victory, by Lissa Evans
Entirely selfishly, I bought this for the Dr's birthday so that I could read it. It's the third in a trilogy, after Crooked Heart and its prequel, Old Baggage - both of which I adored. 

We pick up with young Noel Bostock and his adopted aunt Vee - though she's neither of those things officially. Now going under the name Mrs Margery Owens, she and Noel bugger on through the chaos of north London at the fag-end of the Second World War. At any moment of any day, a V2 might fall on them and it's exhausting - not least because the chores and home-schooling must still somehow be done. Still, there's romance kindling in the air for each of them. And then they both stumble into people who know something of their past - and might expose their secrets...

As before, there's a wealth of telling historical detail worked deftly into the breezy tale, which I knocked through in a matter of days. It's so teeming with life and emotion. We really feel the outrage of Winnie the Warden discovering that her harrowing real-life experience has been filletted by her sister for a sexy novel. Or there's Noel's infatuation with a girl who's moved away:

"Noel recognized Genevieve Lumb's neat but forceful handwriting. Even the thought that she had licked the envelope was quite physically stirring." (p. 53).

The remarkable thing is that these extraordinary, unprecedented times feel utterly real. But it's also a delight to spend time in the company of good people just trying to get by, despite all the crap going on. 

I was especially moved by the ending, where Vee and Noel face some tricky emotional stuff relating to his biological parents. It's so perfectly done, so impossible to describe here without spoiling. At one point, Vee wonders what might have happened if she'd not made a connection with this awkward teen at a critical moment, how nearly he might have been lost. But we leave them happy, the war over and a new world on the horizon. After all the devastation, what survives is the love. 

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