Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What I Saw and How I Lied

Congratulations to Donna Earnhardt who won last week's giveaway and will receive Gretchen Griffith's picture book, "When Christmas Feels Like Home." Don't be discouraged if you didn't win. Next week Deanna Klingel will share her winning query letter along with a chance to win "Cracks In the Ice."

Today, I want to share my thoughts on the 2008 National Book Award winner What I Saw and How I Lied; a book which could easily be subtitled, "Things aren't always as they seem." 

I was attracted to this audio book since my work-in-progress Half-Truths deals with the theme of family secrets. Set in 1947, author Judy Blundell, tells the story of 15-year-old Evie Spooner, who uncovers a series of lies which her beloved mother and step-father tell.

Her step-father, Joe Spooner, is a World War II veteran who marries Evie's attractive mother, Bev. In a moment worthy of being mentioned in the pages of LIFE magazine, Bev is rescued from a life of being leered at by men in order to give Evie a "normal" father like every other girl has.  

But what Evie doesn't realize, is that Joe brings baggage -- in the form of money from goods that were stolen from the Nazis who stole it from the Jews-- to the marriage. 

When 23-year-old Peter Coleridge follows the family to a vacation in Florida, Evie falls head over heels in love with him. Joe reluctantly admits that Pete served with him in the war and Evie doesn't understand Joe's resentment to Peter. Caught up in her own "first love" Evie doesn't see how her mother also sneaks away to see Peter. 

Blundell creates two believable stories: the "top story" of a young girl's infatuation, what she does to gain her crush's attention, and how she innocently sees the world; and then the "underside" story of events which leave her parents accused of an heinous crime. Evie comes of age as she recognizes that events can be portrayed, explained, and even legitimized -- all depending on your point of view.   

Blundell did an excellent job of depicting life immediately following World War II and the aftermath which both veterans and their families faced. In the author's note at the end of the book, Blundell explains how she immersed herself in the music and literature of the time period. Her diligence to details shows. 

Since I am also writing a post-World War II book that deals with lies and deception, this book challenges me to authentically portray my characters' struggles. 

I disagree with the publisher's suggestion that this is a book for 9-12 year olds. I think the hint at sexual activity, violence, and the complicated family allegiances make this more appropriate as a young adult book. 


Linda Phillips said...

This sounds like a great read, and I can see how it would be relevant reading in terms of your own WIP. Thanks for the great review.

Rosi said...

Oh my. I think I'm going to like this book. I will be checking it out soon. Thanks for telling me about it. I am also often amazed at the ages publishers assign to certain books. Maybe they are simply using the lexile scores or something ambiguous like that.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Linda and Rosi. THis book will not disappoint. But it will leave you wondering, "Can I ever write like this?"

Anonymous said...

Great title for a book. It does, indeed, seem like an intriguing book to read, especially since I grew up in post WW11. Maybe I can get in on my Kindle. If you haven't been to my blog in the past week, please do so to check out Carole Boston Weatherford's guest blog entry. And today I hope to post reviews of three books that deal with how prejudice makes the object of such hate feel. www.sarahsbookreflections.wordpress.com

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Sarah. I'm off to check out your reviews!

Linda A. said...

This sounds like a terrific story for young adults or adults. I agree that it seems too mature for middle grade readers. Thanks for a wonderful review. I'm sure you'll find a a way to capture the art of telling/keeping secrets.

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