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Review: The novels of Lissa Evans and Scotland

Lissa Evans’s novels sound like ideal summer reading. According to The Independent’s reviewer she is ‘that rarest of gems amongst writers: not just a real storyteller, but one who makes the entire process seem effortlessly simple’.

(Lissa Evans) originally qualified and worked as a doctor, then became an award-winning radio and TV producer and director, and now writes delightful novels very much character rather than plot driven.

The two I have read, Crooked Heart (2014) and Old Baggage (2018), form part of a trilogy; the third, V for Victory, was published last year. Old Baggage is a prequel to Crooked Heart but they are equally enjoyable whichever order you read them in, although perhaps best to leave V for Victory till last.

Crooked Heart portrays a selection of likeable rogues all chancing their arm to scrape a living during the Second World War. The main protagonists are Vera Sedge, living in very precarious circumstances supporting a mother and son by whatever means she can, and Noel Bostock, whom she takes in as an evacuee purely to boost her income, and who proves to be a willing and uniquely able partner in her petty crimes. Sad situations and serious issues are threaded through the story, but they are balanced with gentle humour.

Set in 1928 Old Baggage tells the tale of another loveable, highly intelligent lady with a forceful character and energies to spare looking for a new purpose in life. Matilda (Mattie) Simpkins was a militant suffragette (imprisoned five times) and now lives with her friend Flea beside Hampstead Heath, giving talks on the suffragette movement. The tales of her escapades are both funny and moving and I found myself becoming very fond of her and was delighted to come across her again in Crooked Heart.

Review by Member of Pittenweem Library