observations: See this entry earlier this week for more about this book and author. In the passage above, Noel is watching his foster-mother Vee, who is trying to con people out of money. She isn’t very good at it, but when she links up with Noel they will turn into a fine team. ***
The book is briskly unsentimental – everyone’s motives are examined in full, and they’re not usually very creditable, and this applies in spades to Vee. And yet the book is full of life, and heart-warming.
Evans does wonderful dialogue, and brilliant observation. Here are some examples of her ability to build a character in a few words:
- Vee has to tell Noel that he is too posh: “no-one from St Albans ever says ‘hence’. And you should say ‘my mum’ not ‘my mother’ and anyway you just don’t sound right.”
- Austrian refugee Hilde says of her new life in an English factory: ‘this is not what I am used to. At home we had a pastry cook. I studied the harp.’
- The old suffragettes reminiscing: ‘Livvy Kerr wasn’t quite the thing was she?’ ‘Gung-ho but lacking in fibre, had the screaming ab-dabs when they locked the cell door.’
- Vee is watching young women who have been conscripted into the ATS: ‘Vee tried to imagine herself at 18, whisked off to learn how to mend trucks, everything found and not a whit of responsibility, a clean start, a new life on a platter. Heaven. She smiled at the fatty next to her, and was offered a fag.
This is one of the best new books I’ve read this year, and I could quote from it all day.
***This plot device mirrors that in an obscure book turned into an Oscar-winning film. (To be clear, not remotely suggesting plagiarism, just an interesting parallel. ) The book was Addie Pray by Joe David Brown, later renamed Paper Moon to match the movie, which starred Ryan O’Neal and his daughter Tatum as a couple of con artists. The book also has the distinction of featuring in the very first entry on this blog, back in January 2012 – I lavishly had two books in the entry, linking Paper Moon with Dorothy L Sayers Have His Carcase. I am willing to bet that no-one else has ever put those two books together…
The picture, from the Imperial War Museum, shows everyday life in the UK in 1942.