In keeping with my little blog posts about some Historical Fiction books I’ve been reading during quarantine, I realized after finishing The Borgia Confessions, that I would love to read something in the same vein, but different. Does that make sense to you? It didn’t really make sense to me, so I fell back on an old favorite of mine called What I saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell. The last book I read took place in Italy during the 15th century, but What I Saw and How I Lied takes place right after World War 2 in America. That makes it seem like it’s completely different, but it features a strange romance, scheming, and an innocent main character who, over the course of the story, loses that innocence while being a pawn in a scheme.
Unlike The Borgia Confessions, Ms. Blundell’s book is aimed at teenagers, but that doesn’t mean it’s childish or silly. The book tackles some very important themes like growing up, crushes, what the world was like after the war, and anti-semitism.
What I Saw and How I Lied is about a girl named Evie who travels with her mother and step-father from New York all the way down to West Palm Beach in Florida to get away from it all. Unfortunately, they go during the off season and there’s only one hotel that’s open with a small group of people staying there. One of those people is Peter. He’s older, charming, and was in the war and he’s the only person in the entire hotel that doesn’t treat her like she’s a child.
Evie falls for Peter and spends the whole book trying to find ways to spend time alone with him all while her world is changing rapidly. When Peter turns up dead after a sailing accident though, Evie is forced to confront that while her world was changing, she may have missed some pertinent details about the events transpiring around her.
One of my favorite things about this book, one that has stuck with me since I first read it when I was in high school, is at the beginning of the book when Evie is talking about how the war changed them. She said that everybody got really good at Geography so they could keep track of where the battles were. “Pin the tail on the battle” she called it “Pin the trail and pray that our loved ones weren’t there.”
In situations like this, where it seems like our world is going to be so different, I think about that quote a lot. During World War 2, families had to adapt to lifestyle changes while people they’d known their whole lives were away at war and today we’re dealing with some pretty big lifestyle changes as well. Just like back then, it won’t be permanent, but it may force us to reevaluate how we do certain things and maybe change certain aspects of our lives down the line.
Maybe the connection only makes sense to me, but it’s been a quote that has been popping up in my head often recently so I’m glad I took this extra free time as a chance to reread an old favorite.
Mallory’s Rating: ⅘ stars