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…
With caustic wit and artful storytelling, Lissa Evans elegantly summons a time when the world could finally hope to emerge from the chaos of war. As sharply comic as Old Baggage and emotionally poignant as Crooked Heart, V For Victory once again shows Lissa Evans to be one of our most brilliant and subtle writers.
Sometimes when I’m writing a review, I have to sit back for a while before putting pen to paper to sort out my feelings! Not because the book is bad, but because it is so good, I worry about doing it justice and V for Victory is one of those books! It is another superb novel from an exceptionally talented writer, that has taken a place in my happy reading heart.
I have been a big fan of Lissa Evan’s for a while, her writing always feels warm and the characters beautifully written, so much so, they feel by the end of V for Victory like friends. Those you will always be fond of! I felt joy spending time with them and sad to have to leave them behind after reading the last pages!
Vee Sedge is an utter joy, she is a matriarch of sorts overseeing life in a boarding house full of lodgers and her young charge Noel. Despite having a questionable past, she is a character that shines off the page, is kind, resourceful and looking for a good life for those she loves. The writer made her not just a central part of the story, the glue that holds it the narrative together, but gave her a story of her own, relationships and friendships that made her feel richer. Her relationship with an American airman, bringing her vulnerabilities to the fore, Noel her gentle and nurturing side. She is a heroine who is not only easy to love, she is a women searching for happiness at a time when life is constantly throwing curve balls at her. I will never not love her, her wise, emotional and caring heart.
Then there is Noel himself who is awkward and geeky to use a modern phrase, the pitch perfect teenager. All angst and longing and justifiable anger, who through Lisa Evan’s gentle story telling endures a right of passage. During the ebb of the war years he becomes a young adult, under the studious gaze of his many tutors and Vee’s often rather unconventional mothering style, He is a character that will always be with me, having wormed his way into my heart and I was left wanting to carry on his journey with him, watching him become a man. Am I hoping too much for the author to write another book with both Vee and Noel in? I would miss Vee, as I miss Mattie from Old Baggage, but I want to see Noel grow up!! Lissa Evans always produces stories full of characters that are unforgettable, who are wise and gentle and it is what ultimately makes this book, the generous wonderful read that it is.
The story feels gentle and yet there is so much going on. Ghosts from the past pop up, adventures to Brighton, Noel struggling through teenage angst, his past and his present. Threats to Vee and Noel’s carefully crafted home and relationship and war time culinary wizardry. Yet it never feels rushed, in fact it feels warm, invigorating and fresh. Your allowed to be a part of the story, given time to come to love the characters. The writer tells a tale that is wise, moving and funny and brings to life with touching details the reality of life during war time. She moves the story with seamless authority from the horror of London being bombed, the deaths of so many, to the moving interconnection between a group of characters that have to navigate a time of threats. Importantly for me, she never loses sight of one of her greatest gifts, the characters that people her story like radiant stars in the night sky.
V for Victory is gentle wise, funny and moving.
About the author
Lissa Evans has written books for both adults and children, including Their Finest Hour and a Half, longlisted for the Orange Prize, Small Change for Stuart, shortlisted for many awards including the Carnegie Medal and the Costa Book Awards and Crooked Heart, longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.