V for Victory

Written by Lissa Evans
Review by Douglas Kemp

London in the Autumn of 1944, and V1 and V2 rockets are falling on the capital, causing misery and destruction, though the airplane bombing raids have stopped as the Allies push on to mainland Europe. Vee (Vera Sedge) runs a lodging house in Hampstead, living with her precocious teenage nephew Noel Bostock, who is educated by the various lodgers as a contribution to their rent. But it is clear during the opening part of the narrative that something dubious is going on, with Vee’s assumed name being Margery Overs, having changed identity, and that she is not entitled to live in the property. Nor is she Noel’s aunt. There are hints and clues throughout the story that Vee’s background has not been at all legitimate in terms of her behaviour, but the reader only really gets the full picture over halfway through the story. This is the third in what the author herself describes as a “loose trilogy,” so the plot may have been clearer earlier had I read the previous two books.

An ARP, Winnie Crowther, meets Noel and recognises his address as a house she used to visit as a girl with her twin sister. This is a worry for both Vee and Noel, and the past begins to encircle them, threatening their cosy arrangement. There are further concerns as the psychological net tightens upon their life in Hampstead.

This is a very funny novel, wryly observing the often ludicrous nature of the human condition; it is a mixture of comedy and tragedy in wartime London and exceptionally well narrated. It portrays so well the bleak, austere London of the latter war years, a London that was damaged and fatigued, yet struggled through. Nevertheless, this is an uplifting book, filled with characters that you care about and who live both on and off the page. I would like a sequel to see what happens to Noel and Vera after the end of the War.