#BookReview Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, trans. by Sondra Silverston

LiarAbout the Book

Nofar is just an average teenage girl – so average, she’s almost invisible. Serving customers ice cream all summer long, she is desperate for some kind of escape. One afternoon, a terrible lie slips from her tongue. And suddenly everyone wants to talk to her: the press, her schoolmates, and the boy upstairs – the only one who knows the truth.

Then Nofar meets Raymonde, an elderly woman whose best friend has just died. Raymonde keeps her friend alive the only way she knows how – by inhabiting her stories. But soon, Raymonde’s lies take on a life of their own.

Format: Paperback (288 pages)        Publisher: Pushkin Press
Publication date: 28th March 2019 Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction, Literature in Translation

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My Review

I alternated between reading the paperback edition published by Pushkin Press and listening to the Audible Studios audiobook narrated by Ajjaz Awad.

The author is clearly fond of similes; in fact, so fond that waiting for them at the end of a sentence became somewhat distracting at times. Depending on your point of view, the examples that follow are imaginative, laboured or simply perplexing.

‘She shrank like a caterpillar on its back’
‘Nofar’s guilt, like a Persian cat, rubbed her legs fleetingly, sat for a brief moment on her lap, then moved onward.’
‘Smiles have a way of catching a person’s eye, like a red balloon gliding in the sky and drawing the glances of people below.’
Her thoughts, like pizza-delivery boys on their motorcycles, reached the most remote streets.’
‘Love is a very delicate thing, the truth can trample it like a hippopotamus running wild.’
‘The words were like a can of petrol thrown on the small ball of fire in her stomach.’
‘Her face was red and swollen, but to Lavi she looked like a wonderful grapefruit.’

I wasn’t entirely convinced by the introduction of a secondary storyline and a new character, Raymonde, in part two of the book. Although consistent with the theme of the book – that lies take on a life of their own and are difficult to take back – I struggled with the nature and context of her deception. It was more deliberate and studied than Nofar’s spur-of-the-moment outburst. I suppose it could be argued that, in sharing the stories of her dead friend, Raymonde was at least ensuring they would be heard.

I also found it hard to identify with the characters in the book or become engaged in the central relationship between Nofar and Lavi, which seemed a little on the creepy side to me. Although never stated, the book is  set in Tel Aviv but I didn’t get a particularly strong sense of place; much of the action is confined to Nofar’s family’s apartment or the dingy alley beside the ice cream parlour where she works. The exception was a night time scene in which Nofar looks out over the city from the roof of the family’s apartment.

I felt the novel worked best as an exploration of lies and their consequences. Pretty much all the characters in the book lie in one way or another. Some are motivated by a desire for attention or sympathy, others to show off or to make believe they’re living a different, more exciting life. Their lies range from the ‘white lie’ to out-and-out deceit or, as in Nofar’s case, to false accusation. The book also demonstrates the way lies can take on a life of their own, make the teller vulnerable to manipulation and unwittingly compromise the integrity of others.

In three words: Thought-provoking, intimate, discursive

Try something similar: Belladonna by Anbara Salam

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About the Author

USE-THIS_ayelet_gundar©alon_siga-copyAyelet Gundar-Goshen is an award-winning novelist, and a clinical psychologist based in Israel. Her novels One Night, Markovitch and Waking Lions, both published by Pushkin Press, have been translated into 14 languages.

She is an occasional correspondent for the BBC, TIME magazine and Israeli media. (Photo credit: Publisher author page)

About the Translator

Sondra Silverston has lived in Israel since 1970. Her translations include fiction by contemporary Israeli authors Amos Oz, Eshkol Nevo, Savyon Liebrecht, Aharon Megged, and Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, as well as the fiction and essays of Etgar Keret.

One thought on “#BookReview Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, trans. by Sondra Silverston

  1. Oh… all those similes might bother me as well. Too much of a good thing. I don’t know the author, or the translator… not sure I’d like this book. Thanks for the great review, all the same.


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