As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

March 6, 2011

WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED by Judy Blundell, 2008

What I Saw And How I LiedWhen 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? (Amazon product description)

Every so often we receive reviews of the same book, and both of these reviews are so great that we're posting them together! Enjoy!

Review by Kathleen Bossenbroek, High School English Teacher

I teach high school English. Reading is my favorite. Every book or two I find a young adult novel to read. I'm trying to sift through it all to pick out some great books to introduce to my students. This week I read the National Book Award Winner for Young People's Literature from 2008 (I know, I'm behind). 

It is a, you guessed it: coming of age novel. Not surprising when you're in the young adult section of the book store. Anyhow, I love the time period in which it takes place. The story is right after World War II ends. Evie's dad and the oh so handsome Peter Coleridge were both in the war. Of course, for fifteen year old Evie, a man who just returned from war is much too old. Peter Coleridge somehow turned into Robert Redford in my head. Not that I think Redford is that dreamy (I'm a Paul Newman fan myself), but maybe its because he played Jay Gatsby. He has that troubled, "find me irresistible" look about him. This is a fun, quick read. Like any good book, it has a surprising twist! Don't be put off by the fact that it is "young adult." We're all young adults until we want to become old, grumpy ones. :)

Review by Natalie Gorna, Writer for the Fresno Examiner

I saw What I Saw and How I Lied on the shelf in a bookstore, and I have to admit the front cover grabbed my attention.  I flipped through the first few pages, and…I was utterly, completely taken in.  I checked out the book from the library as soon as possible and I soaked in Judy Blundell’s every word.  I wouldn’t blame anyone for reading the entire novel in one day; Evie Spooner is such an amazing teenage character, and as she narrated her story I was drawn in more and more into her world and the events in her life.  I don’t think I even need to say how effective the author’s combination of romance,tragedy, and mystery was—this is a love story that is bittersweet and highly satisfying at the same time, despite the final outcome of the story itself.   

The plot alone had a Byronic, turbulent atmosphere; I liked the way Blundell created even the clouds of cigarette smoke so realistically in the midst of her settings.  Furthermore, What I Saw and How I Lied is more than a bold first-person narrative that recognizes the internal struggles and changing beliefs of a teenage girl like Evie.  The storyline strikes the troublesome environment of post-World War II America and explodes society's prejudice and corruption on every page.  The book is not political per se, but it does show how things were at that point in time for Americans.  For example, the characters of Tom and Arlene Grayson, an elegant couple, are first-hand victims of racial and religious discrimination.  What I Saw and How I Lied showcases human deception and secrecy in diverse circumstances.  In fact, most of the characters openly display their human weaknesses when confronted with the truths in their lives that they have tried to escape from.  Joe may be a business entrepreneur with growing prospects, but under that accomplishment lies a well-hidden theft during his deployment in Austria which provided the foundation for his status as nouveau riche.  Joe's mother participates in the lie, concealing it with bribery and her own hypocrisy.  Beverly's illicit affair further destroys her marriage to Joe, as the extent of her infidelity crushes Evie's and Joe's trust. 

However, Peter's personal contribution to both Beverly's and Joe's lies shatters Evie's faith in everyone whom she loved.  Evie finally comes out from under her mother's "perfect" image and determines to be her own mature person.  She realizes that her own behavior has been according to other people's standards, not her own.  Superseding her adolescence by developing her moral principles, Evie firmly decides to adhere to them without any outside manipulation.  Evie must choose her future.  She has to decide what she wants to save more—her family or a memory.  Her friendships, feelings, and connections are questioned, but her vulnerability and her understanding of love and honesty make her a remarkable main character.  With What I Saw and How I Lied, Judy Blundell has contrived a shocking, perturbing, and very moving work of historical fiction that will empower any reader to join Evie in her conclusive vow to never lie again.

Market: Young Adult fiction
Language: Mild/Moderate (a few profane words, but nothing much)
Sensuality: Moderate (nothing graphic, but there is some sexuality)
Violence: Mild/Moderate
Mature Themes: infidelity, death, murder, prejudice, identity 

Book formats:

To learn more about the author, visit: Judy Blundell


Anonymous said...

This book was amazing! I loved the settings--especially the off-season resort city at the beginning of the book. Great reviews, Kathleen and Natalie!

Amy Finnegan {} said...

I just started this book a couple of days ago, and I'm loving it!! Can't wait to finish!!:)

Laura Howard said...

This is another of my tbr books!!! I love the era it takes place in, so I'm sure it'll be a winner. Also, everyone who's read it has told me it's a must- read.

amberargyle said...

Gotta love a book about choosing between family and love--because in the end, we all have to make that choice. To a degree at least. The book I'm writing right now is that way.

Amy Finnegan {} said...

Just finished this!! WHAT A GREAT, SUSPENSEFUL READ!! Thanks for the awesome recommendation, Kathleen and Natalie!