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This novel puts a flawed but human face on the good, the bad and the ugly of WWII England survival and family life. At first I hated the characters and thought seriously twice of abandoning the book. I encourage others to keep going with the story and push past the unlikable early few hours of listening. To me, it was more than worth it in the end. The writing is pithy, funny, poignant and really good.
The narration was top notch. Perfect timing, accents and voice changes for different characters. The excellent narration was the driving force behind my sticking with the book.
Recommended if you are interested in stories about WWII and life during the Blitz. Engaging, balanced and touching without any sugary sweetness. This was a book I went from really just hating to loving over the course of listening. Excellent.
32 of 35 people found this review helpful
Going into this I think I had an idea it might be a riff on Oliver Twist and Fagin, but that wasn’t the case (thankfully). But this also wasn’t a hearty pep rally for noble sacrifices made during the Blitz. This showed the seamier side of people already living on slim margins made nearly unbearable by wartime shortages and restrictions. Creative survival was not always nice and was often dark, ugly and dangerous.
Vera Sledge’s acceptance of orphan Noel as her foster evacuee was no altruistic wartime contribution – it was an opportunity to exploit him for fraudulent fund raising. Thing is, everyone else in the picture was finding their own way to scam the system – Vera’s son, shopkeepers, the Home Guard - everyone seemed to be on the make. Half way through the story I wondered where was London’s make-do resilience? The stiff upper lip for King and Country? I couldn’t feel connected to anyone – mainly because none of the characters really connected emotionally to each other. It was All for One as long as the One is Me.
But there are shades of right and wrong, and Noel can make the distinction between what was legally wrong but morally right, and what was just plain wrong. Within the grey areas of their enterprise, Noel becomes the voice of conscience demanding justice for crimes committed out of greed and malice. As Vera found the beginnings of an affection for him, I began to find an affection for her. When Noel is in peril she shakes out of her self-absorbed anxiety to save him, and finally I was all-in. My take on the story improved exponentially. Karen Cass’s 10 star narration covered differences in accents, ages and genders with a light touch that avoided overacting and caricature. I enjoyed this listen more than I would likely have done reading the text. In the end, a fond recommendation.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful