A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Upon seeing this book at the library, I was intrigued by the quirky characters, and it does have them, but there’s also a sweet story too. Not a sappy story, but one which endears. Taking place in England during WW2, Noel, a brainy nine year old, is living with his godmother and is evacuated to a London suburb after she passes away. The person who takes him in is a middle-aged lady who mostly goes by the name of Vera. She has an adult son who is exempted from service due to health reasons and he lives a secretive life full of schemes. Vera is also a small time con artist and soon involves Noel, who actually finds ways to improve her projects. Watching these two personalities learn about and move towards trusting each other is the core of the book and what makes it appealing. The multi-layered portrayals of them, as well as secondary characters, expands the story and I could have happily read another two hundred pages about them.
Another element I liked about the book was the details of England in the war and during the Blitz. Not just about things like ration books and blackouts, but the feeling of being in an air raid shelter, jammed in with neighbors and strangers, waiting out the scary minutes or sometimes hours. There’s also a passage describing the streets of a town under bombardment, the streets dark except for the flashes of explosions. It was the most vivid depiction of an air attack since the most recent movie adaptation of The End of the Affair.
While some parts of the book are slightly predictable, there’s some wild twists towards the end that you don’t see coming at all. I don’t fully understand all of the meanings behind the title, but I do know that this is a book with a lot of heart and certainly found a little place in mine.
Harper 2015 288 pp. ISBN-13:978-0062364838