#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.

#BookReview The Coral Bride (Detective Morales #2) by Roxanne Bouchard, trans. David Warriner @OrendaBooks

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Coral Bride by Roxanne Bouchard, the follow-up to We Were the Salt of the Sea. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Orenda Books for my digital review copy.

The Coral BrideAbout the Book

When an abandoned lobster trawler is found adrift off the coast of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, DS Joaquin Moralès begins a straightforward search for the boat’s missing captain, Angel Roberts – a rare female in a male-dominated world. But Moralès finds himself blocked at every turn – by his police colleagues, by fisheries bureaucrats, and by his grown-up son, who has turned up at his door with a host of his own personal problems.

When Angel’s body is finally discovered, it’s clear something very sinister is afoot, and Moralès and son are pulled into murky, dangerous waters, where old resentments run deep.

Format: ebook (400 pages)                 Publisher: Orenda Books
Publication date: 20th August 2020 Genre: Crime, Mystery

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My Review

The Coral Bride is set among the same close-knit fishing communities of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula as her first book featuring Detective Sergeant Joaquin Moralès, We Were the Salt of the Sea, a book I very much enjoyed. The events in The Coral Bride take place over the space of a few weeks at the end of the fishing season when the shrimp and lobster trawlers are brought ashore for the winter.

If you’ll pardon the pun, Moralès remains rather a fish out of water. He still feels like something of an outsider, not just because of his Mexican heritage or the fact that the life he imagined with his wife, Sarah, has not turned out the way he planned. It’s also that he finds it hard to adjust to the different pace and way of doing things in Gaspé, even from a policing perspective where so much depends on local knowledge.

Having been reassigned against his wishes, and for reasons he doesn’t fully understand, to what was initially a missing person case doesn’t help. Nor does being put in charge of an investigation team consisting of Erik Lefebvre, an officer who much prefers desk research to field work, and Simone Lord, a rather combative Fisheries officer. However, Moralès is conscious he will need to find a way to work with them because they possess the local and technical knowledge he lacks.

When the missing person case becomes a suspicious death, Moralès faces the knotty problem of discovering whether it was a case of murder or suicide. His investigation reveals fractures in the small community that go back decades and, like nearly everything in the Gaspé Peninsula, involve fishing and the sea.

The introduction of Moralès’ eldest son, Sebastien, a young man with his own personal problems, into the story provides a fresh perspective. Sebastien’s respect for and confidence in his father has been undermined both by the estrangement of his parents and rumours that Joaquin has been unfaithful. If true, the latter is a bit too close to home. As he confides, “All I’ve seen lately is a whole bunch of lies” and, given his own behaviour, he’s begun to doubt that loyalty is something he’s inherited from his father.

The book demonstrates once again the author’s skill at conveying the beauty and power of the sea, preserved in the translation from French by David Warriner. “Beyond the windows, the sea scattered incalculable shards of moonlight, their illusory fragments of silver shimmering on the surface as the horizon stretched into the night.” But The Coral Bride is also a tightly plotted crime mystery whose solution reveals itself in a satisfying manner.

The Coral Bride is another beautifully written, engrossing mystery from the pen of Roxanne Bouchard.

In three words: Atmospheric, intriguing, suspenseful

Try something similar: Containment by Vanda Symon

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RoxanneAbout the Author

Over ten years ago, Roxanne Bouchard decided it was time she found her sea legs. So she learned to sail, first on the St Lawrence River, before taking to the open waters off the Gaspé Peninsula. The local fishermen soon invited her aboard to reel in their lobster nets, and Roxanne saw for herself that the sunrise over Bonaventure never lies. Her fifth novel (but the first translated into English) We Were the Salt of the Sea was published in 2018 to resounding critical acclaim, sure to be followed by its sequel, The Coral Bride. She lives in Quebec.

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About the Translator

David Warriner grew up in deepest Yorkshire, has lived in France and Quebec, and now calls British Columbia home. He translated Johanna Gustawsson’s Blood Song for Orenda Books, and his translation of Roxanne Bouchard’s We Were the Salt of the Sea was runner-up for the 2019 Scott Moncrieff Prize for French-English translation.

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Coral Bride BT Poster JPEG