There are two main characters in this quirky and gritty war story. Noel is an orphan boy evacuated to St. Albans from London during the Blitz. Vera is a middle aged woman whose life is falling apart and is lurching from one crisis to another. Noel and Vera forge an unlikely alliance that throws both of them in with some crooked behaviour and danger, but also oddly sustains them in tough times. My favourite character was actually one who is already dead, but lives on very clearly and dearly in Noel’s memory–his godmother Mattie. She is the one who has given Noel his confidence and disdain for authority and, as a suffragette, she has taught him to think for himself and not accept the status quo.
This book is hilarious and tragic at the same time. We’ve all read novels about the war, but this one has a very different feel to it–an entertaining but darkly comic addition to the Baileys’ Longlist.