Van has finished reading…Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

25 Jun

Sometimes you just click with a character. The first thing they do, the first words they speak just make you smile. Maybe you’re reminded of someone, or perhaps even a little of yourself. Whatever it is that chimes with you, the particular magic of that moment, the particular skill of the writer is in the spell they cast. You’re there. You’re in the room, in the scene, in the moment. It’s so good, of course, that you don’t even notice it. As a writer it’s most definitely something worth striving for, worth noticing, worth studying.

Meeting Mattie in Lissa Evans’s Crooked Heart is an exemplar. Straight away there’s an emotional attachment, nestled in the line, ‘At first it was quite funny.’ In fact, nestled in the first two words of that line. And Mattie is funny, which means we already know she will cease to be so. We’re not even off page one and we’re already sensing the bitter-sweetness of it all, fearing for Noel.

And here’s the second stroke of genius Lissa Evans pulls. Noel is a precocious little brat. No mistaking it. Take out the prologue and I suspect every reader to a person would be wishing him less than well. But how the experience of growing up with Mattie frames him, shapes him. How we feel for him, root for him because we feel the injustice of just how much has been taken away.

It’s a really lovely book, all the way down to the fractured shadows and angular lines on the hardback cover. Lissa Evans serves up some interesting moral questions, providing the blurriest of lines for us to walk along. She mines her characters for their humour expertly, playing their particular quirks with finesse. There’s a real deftness too in the way Lissa Evans alludes to the depths of sacrifice Vee sinks to to try and keep one step ahead. There are some desperately sad undertones that are all the more powerful for not being paraded. The finale is all quiet glory. Truly touching.

Maybe you like reading about the era. Maybe it’s great characters, or a slightly quirky outlook. Maybe a new perspective or just a good old-fashioned, well-put-together tale. It doesn’t matter. Pick a reason. But pick up the book and read it. It’s an absolute joy.

Crooked Heart was published by Doubleday in 2014, ISBN 978-0-385-61433-7

You can find Lissa Evans on twitter @LissaKEvans or on her website,


3 Responses to “Van has finished reading…Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans”


  1. Van has finished reading…Life After Life by Kate Atkinson | vanisreading - 18/12/2015

    […] dreadful and yet somehow hopeful too. Like other books I’ve read on this period this year (Crooked Heart; Early One Morning) they don’t approach the war as a thing in itself, an occurrence outside of […]

  2. Van’s top five reads in 2015 | vanisreading - 07/01/2016

    […] Picks (in fact four of my top five appear either in Isabel’s Hot Picks for 2015 or Summer Reads). Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans took me back to the Second World War (I think the most-visited place in the books I […]

  3. Van has finished reading…Mussolini’s Island by Sarah Day | vanisreading - 01/08/2017

    […] and location I’m reminded of Virginia Baily’s superb Early One Morning, and Lissa Evans’ Crooked Heart. Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. Sarah Day’s Mussolini’s Island is one of the quiet […]

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