Blundell, Judy. 2008. What I Saw and How I Lied.
What I Saw and How I Lied is one of five books nominated for the National Book Award. It has a great opener, "The match snapped, then sizzled, and I woke up fast." We begin with the ending. That is, most of the novel is a flashback. But we've got three pages too hook us and make us as readers care. (In a very odd way--it reminds me of Rebecca. Don't ask me why. I'm not sure I could pinpoint the reasons clearly and concisely.)
Here's the first page:
The match snapped, then sizzled, and I woke up fast. I heard my mother inhale as she took a long pull on a cigarette. Her lips stuck on the filter, so I knew she was still wearing lipstick. She'd been up all night.I thought the opening was great for setting the tone and providing the atmosphere for the novel. Our heroine, Evie, is introduced along with her mother.
She lay on the bed next to me. I felt her fingers on my hair and I kept sleep-breathing. I risked a look under my eyelashes.
She was in her pink nightgown, ankles crossed, head flung back against the pillows. Arm in the air, elbow bent, cigarette glowing in her fingers. Tanned legs glistening in the darkness. Blond hair tumbling past her shoulders.
I breathed in smoke and My Sin perfume. It was her smell. It filled the air.
I didn't move, but I could tell she knew I was awake. I kept on pretending to be asleep. She pretended not to know. (1)
When Alice fell down the rabbit hole, she fell slow. She had time to notice things on her way down--Oh, there's a teacup! There's a table! So things seemed almost normal to her while she was falling. Then she bumped down and rolled into Wonderland, and all hell broke loose.
I'd noticed things on the way down, too. I'd seen it all--the way he took off his hat, the way he lit her cigarette, the way she walked away, her scarf trailing in her hand. Flower petals and a pineapple vase. Now I had to look at it again. This time without me in in it, wanting things to go my way. So I've got to start from the very beginning. The day before we left for Florida. Just an ordinary day. (3)
With a title like "What I Saw and How I Died" readers are bound to be a bit suspicious. We know something is coming--possibly something big--we just don't quite know what or when or how and why. Evie is a good narrator--good at keeping your interest. I would imagine this is fairly hard to put down. It's an atmospheric coming of age story set in Florida in the late 1940s.
Another review, Bookends
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews