Saturday, October 8, 2011

Book Review: What I Saw And How I Lied

I was browsing at the local library and only meant to grab one or two books there, these days I don't have as much time to read so I try to keep my to-read stack a little smaller (emphasis on "try") but this book caught my eye as I was browsing and it was a small one so I figured why not. It was historical fiction (1947 so right after World War II, rather interesting since there are tons of books set during wars but not enough set after them) and realistic fiction which I do make an effort to read to try and balance out all the "less" realistic kinds of fiction I read. I was surprised, although I probably shouldn't have, to find even more Jewish characters in this book (which I mentioned in the updated Diversity post) but I'm glad they were there since one of them ended up being my favorite character in the book.

What I Saw And How I Lied by Judy Blundell
  An interesting cover and I thought it really evoked the feeling of 1940s/50s glamor, a style of beauty that really looks different from current day fashion trends. I also felt like that portrait portrayed the main character, Evie, very well and had no trouble believing this was a picture of her.

Summary: World War II has ended and life has returned to normal for Evie and her mother which, while boring, is stable. But one night her stepfather announces that they are traveling to Florida for a week and Evie is thrilled at the chance for something different in her life and is even happier when she meets a young man at their hotel and falls for him. But she discovers that everyone there is keeping secrets, some benign some malicious, and that those secrets affect everyone there, even her.

The Good: There were some lines that Evie, Joe (her step-father), and Peter (her crush) said during the book that really stuck out to me that I really liked. Both Joe and Peter are WWII veterans and both of them make a comment or two along the lines of "I thought life would be different after the war, after what we had been through and fought for, but nothing changed," and that really resonated with me since, as far as I can tell from growing up, unless you know people in the war they are really distant things and that's why we need fewer stories set in war and more set afterwords, to remind us of the things they do affect. And there was a line by Evie to the hotel manager, who has just kicked out characters who have just been outed as Jewish, about how it was wrong to get so much pleasure out of kicking them out for nothing, one of Evie's few observant moments in the book is noticing this as it happens so I was glad to see she didn't just think about it but also said something.

The Bad: I was fairly naive at 15 myself so I often use a measuring stick when a naive character appears, if they are even less knowledge about the world than I was (without extenuating circumstances) then they start to be unrealistic. Evie comes off as unrealistic which is doubly annoying since her character development centers around her becoming more knowledgeable about the world and the growth seems much too fast and out of the blue. She isn't growing over the course of the book, she seems to grow between scenes in the final 50 pages, so I found the ending a bit jarring and, while I liked what events had occurred, I didn't like how the characters got there and found myself really frustrated with the book. It's a character driven book and I just could not sympathize with the main character for most of it, thought the side characters were getting what they deserved and that all the bit characters were completely flat people created to up the tension, this did not work for me.    

So, in the end this book just did not work for me and I've noticed that I'm more disappointed by realistic fiction books these days than fantasy, it sounds strange but I usually find characters in fantasy works to be much more human characters. I did like the later parts of this book more than the earlier parts but I can't really talk about those parts since that would involve some spoilers (even if leaving them out gives a slightly skewed version of what I thought about this story).

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