What I Saw and How I Lied – Judy Blundell

Category: YA | Historical | Mystery | Racism

The Blurb (from Goodreads):

When Evie’s father returned home from World War II, the family fell back into its normal life pretty quickly. But Joe Spooner brought more back with him than just good war stories. When movie-star handsome Peter Coleridge, a young ex-GI who served in Joe’s company in postwar Austria, shows up, Evie is suddenly caught in a complicated web of lies that she only slowly recognizes. She finds herself falling for Peter, ignoring the secrets that surround him . . . until a tragedy occurs that shatters her family and breaks her life in two. As she begins to realize that almost everything she believed to be a truth was really a lie, Evie must get to the heart of the deceptions and choose between her loyalty to her parents and her feelings for the man she loves. Someone will have to be betrayed. The question is . . . who?

The Review:

Truth, justice … I always thought they were absolutes, like God. And Mom. And apple pie.

Okay, before I start, how striking is that cover? Seriously, the book was on my wishlist, but I probably wouldn’t have picked it up had I not been so infatuated with the way it looked. I’m a total sucker for titles that make my bookshelf prettier! =D

What I Saw and How I Lied is set in New York, the summer of 1947. World War II is over, the economy’s growing, and suddenly people have dreams. They have cars. They look at big houses and make the big bucks in business. The women dress up and lather themselves in makeup, knowing their husbands will be home to see them that night. And in the midst of it all is sixteen-year-old Evie Spooner.

Living with her mother Bev, stepfather Joe and horrendous step-grandmother Gladys, Evie is just your regular teenage girl from the forties. She’s glad to see her stepdad back home from the war, she yearns for the drastic change and adventure only the young can hope for, and most of all, she wants to grow up already so she can be as glamorous, as alluring and as glittery as her stunning mother.

After a series of persistent phone calls looking for Joe, the family is packed up and bundled down to sunny Florida for a well-deserved “vacation”. Evie is excited by the prospect, romanticizing the trip without a single thought for the causes (like we all do/did in our youth). If you’ve ever been to Florida in the summer, you’ll know exactly how silly she’s being. It’s hot, it’s humid, and what’s more – it’s completely devoid of tourists (well it didn’t have the flashy allure it has now!). So they stay in the only open hotel in the entire area, which gives this book its fortunately sparse character count.

I don’t know when it happened, but things started to turn, just a little bit, like when you smell the bottle of milk, and you know it’s going to be sour tomorrow, but you pour it on your cereal anyway.

Evie falls fast and falls hard for Peter Coleridge, a twenty-four year-old veteran who knew Joe in the barracks. Through her beautifully described infatuation, she pays a distracted form of attention to the tension among the adults, the hypocrisy, and is slowly faced with the ugly truth about grownups and the people she idealized so much.

What follows is the story of Evie’s changing world – more specifically, the story of… well, what she sees and how she lies about it. The funny thing about this book is that you read the whole thing, seeing the world through her eyes, but you never once to stop to realize that we don’t know Evie at all. Sure, you know her perspective and admire her perception, but it is her decisions and her choices that take you by surprise. And all you’re left thinking is, “Wow, how did I not see that coming?”

The book is, in a word, gorgeous. Inside and out. Read it for the evocative prose. Read it for the nostalgic feeling of being young and in love. If you’re a fan of The Notebook and its setting, love old sepia photographs, sway along to old music or if you like hanging out with your grandparents like I do, read it because you’ll find the imagery absolutely breathtaking.

This one is recommended for anyone who ever believed that growing up was the best thing that could ever happen, only to find out that it isn’t or wasn’t.

The Rating: 45-crowns

PS. Favorite quote, by a mile:

I wanted to think of music, of dances, of falling in love and getting married before he got shipped overseas. And the songs — I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places — all that longing, all that waiting. It made sense to me now. Every lyric. It wasn’t about just hearing it on the radio. The strings were stretched and quivering and going crazy inside me.

Spectacular, isn’t it?


One response

  1. amy

    I thought this would be better than it was because the cover is probably the most striking I’ve seen(and anything old fashioned instantly attracts me).
    I think your review is spot on though-it was still an amazing book/.
    That quote is breathtaking. That’s one of my favorite songs too, and it fits the book so well. It’s so sad that all that hope was crushed.-amy

    June 7, 2009 at 9:00 pm

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