A clinically trained psychologist, Gundar-Goshen renders a nuanced consideration of morality, probing what she refers to as the ‘grey areas of the soul’. She doesn’t let readers off the hook with simple good guy/bad guy delineations: neither the accused nor the accuser is entirely innocent or entirely evil. Nor, we might conclude, are we. While the book will be published in the US as The Liar — a shortening of the original Hebrew title The Liar and the City — Pushkin Press’s UK title sans article effectively echoes the accusations of ‘Liar!’ reverberating throughout the novel. We see each of the characters playing fast and loose with the truth, whether with white lies or whoppers — including a deaf-mute witness who is neither deaf nor mute, a cowardly war veteran decorated for bravery and an elderly woman who appropriates her dead friend’s identity to pose as a Holocaust survivor.
Gundar-Goshen is more interested in examining the messy grey areas between right and wrong, good and bad, victim and perpetrator. It’s rare to find fiction that makes such an art of probing moral questions while sacrificing neither narrative propulsion nor complex storytelling... The author is at her best when she hones in on small details — and here, too, Sondra Silverston’s translation gets to shine... Liar is populated by characters desperate to be seen. A provocative examination of the consequences of deception, Gundar-Goshen’s novel is a moral mystery for the thinking reader.