Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What I Saw and How I Lied (2008)

When I was a teenager I had a crush on an adult family friend. I thought he was dashing even though I knew he drank entirely too much (he eventually died of liver failure). In Judy Blundell's National Book Award winner, Evie develops a crush on a man who may be having a relationship with her mother. He dies at sea during a hurricane and her parents are suspected of causing his death.

This book takes place mostly in Palm Beach, Florida shortly after the end of World War II. Her stepfather, Joe, takes her mother, Beverly, and Evie by car to Florida for a break. Evie is a prime witness to many adult events such as fights between her parents and between her mother and stepfather's mother, Glad. She is also aware of feelings of antisemitism around her even though one of the major reasons for the war, she thought, was to save the Jews. So why does everyone hate them now?

On the verge of becoming an adult, she tries to participate in the games she sees played around her. She dresses up in her mother's glamorous dresses and wears her makeup and perfume. She flirts with Peter, another guest at the hotel they stay at and he responds by taking her and her mother out for drives to stores and movie theaters. But why did her mother always have to come?

There is a movie genre called "noir", French for "black", where detectives track down murderers and adulterers. There are always dark shadows and the actors use low, deep voices. This book reminded me of these movies. It was dark (even though it took place in Florida) and it seemed the camera angle was always aimed up at the adults as if Evie were shooting the movie and the adults were talking over her head.

I'm not sure who might read this book (notice I didn't say enjoy). I read it because it was an award winner and I almost had to push through it. It's a precautionary story about jumping into grown-up business too early so I would recommend it to readers who appreciate books with serious topics and a maybe not-so-happy ending.

My rating for this book: +++

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