Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New Book: What I Saw and How I Lied

Another recent addition to our collection you should know about is Judy Blundell's What I Saw and How I Lied.

This post-WWII story follows Evie, a young woman whose step-father, Joe, has just returned from the fighting in Europe

The cryptic title drew my attention right away, though I usually avoid novels set in this time period. All through the book, I eagerly awaited the grand revelation.

Evie and her family travel to Florida following a telephone call for Joe. They impulsively drive, off-season, south from New York City, hoping for a vacation. When they arrive, they find the majority of the hotels are closed. In fact, only one place is available for them to stay and many of the shops and restaurants are closed. As a result, the family turns to their fellow guests for entertainment.

Evie is especially attracted to a young man and former soldier, Peter Coleridge from her step-father's company. As her attachment to Peter grows, she begins to notice peculiarities in her parents' behavior that only become clear to her as the novel concludes.

An undercurrent in the novel is the Holocaust and how it is viewed by each character. The start of the novel shows us Evie and a friend, Margie, walking home and teasing a Jewish girl to keep her away from a boy Evie likes. Evie wishes Margie had not treated the girl so harshly, but doesn't move to stop her friend. Later Evie sees the harsh prejudice against Jews in Florida as a couple she meets at her hotel is mistreated.

Throughout the novel, Evie is met with subtle and overt references to the genocide overseas. She watches friends and family deal with the Holocaust differently and eventually comes to her own conclusions.

The way Blundell addresses the Holocaust appealed to me far more than the main plot of the novel. She took a heroine with little understanding of the war and Hitler's crimes and developed Evie until she was more compassionate than many other characters. Evie frustrating naivete becomes silent strength by the novel's conclusion.

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