Look at that jacket. Isn’t it tempting? It was its premise that attracted me to Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s novel but I can’t ignore that cover. Not only is it eye-catching, it fits the book perfectly. Set towards the end of a Tel Aviv summer, Liar tells the story of a young girl who becomes caught up in a scandal after an exchange between her and a fading reality TV star is misinterpreted then seized upon by a media hungry for sensation.
Seventeen-year-old Nofar is working the last few shifts of her summer job at an ice-cream parlour, preparing to face her final year in school. In walks Avishai Milner, sore from being turned down for yet another gig. He snarls an insult at her after she corrects his speech, pursuing her as she dashes out. When he touches her arm, she lets out a resounding scream which unleashes all her long pent-up frustration drawing the attention of passers-by who think the worst. Milner finds himself charged with attempted rape while Nofar is bathed in unaccustomed attention. Two other people know what really happened: one is a deaf-mute beggar the other is Lavi who’s watched it all from his bedroom window. Both Lavi and Nofar are suffering the appalling awkwardness of an adolescence unblessed with beauty. Unable to find a way to talk to Nofar with ease, Lavi decides to blackmail her. Over the course of two weeks, Nofar becomes the darling of the media, entangling herself further in deceit. Meanwhile Milner is in turmoil, the detective on the case thinks she hears a deaf-mute muttering, Nofar’s beautiful sister finds herself no longer the centre of attention and Lavi falls for Nofar. With the trial looming, Nofar realises she’s painted herself into a corner.
Gundar-Goshen smoothly shifts perspectives between characters telling her story from the point of view of Nofar and Lavi while weaving the backstories of more minor players through her narrative. No one, it seems, is entirely truthful: everyone is guilty of bending the truth one way or another. Gundar-Goshen’s characters are just like us: each has their own agenda; they mean well but truth is sometimes inconvenient. Her observation is merciless:
A deaf-mute beggar stood beside them, hand extended, and they pretended to be blind
Her depiction of adolescent self-consciousness excruciatingly accurate
Nofar lived in the world as if she were an uninvited guest at a party
All of this is delivered with a smartly knowing wit leavened with compassion. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable novel with a clear message: lies tend to lead to a deeper deception that can only end in tears. Rare for a lesson in morality to be delivered with such acuity and style – rather like that jacket.