At the start of COVID-19 I wasn’t doing much reading. I really couldn’t focus. I added a bunch of audiobooks to my library queue and have spent some relaxed hours listening to books while doing puzzles.
The Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
It’s important to note that this story begins with a teenage girl, Nofar, falsely accusing a man of rape, or rather, not ‘correcting’ the assumption of rape. The story explores the extent and context of ‘truth’, because although the man did not rape Nofar, he did verbally assault her. The story also demonstrates the cumulative and ripple effect of lies, through both Nofar and a number of secondary characters.
The story is told from multiple perspectives, without judgement or bias, showing that we are not binary beings, and that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and ‘honest’ and ‘deceitful’ exist on a spectrum within every person (ultimately The Liar presents two characters – a ‘good’ person who does a ‘bad’ thing, and a ‘bad’ person copping the consequences). The voice of Nofar is well-pitched – authentic and age-appropriate – and through her, we see how many teenagers are dispossessed of authority.
I pondered the place of The Liar within the context of the #MeToo movement. There’s potential for the book’s message to be interpreted in a way that supports the criticisms of #MeToo (that ‘everything’ is blown out of proportion; that a female’s accusation is believed at all costs, no matter the evidence). The premise of the book doesn’t sit comfortably but I think that’s also its strength, putting the challenge squarely in the readers’ hands.
Run by Ann Patchett
Like the other stories I’ve read by Patchett (Commonwealth and The Dutch House), Run has a fairy tale quality – the talisman of the statue; motherless boys; a girl with a talent, waiting for her opportunity to break from her Cinderella existence. However, Run lacked the warmth and humour of Patchett’s other stories.
The majority of the story takes place over a single night and day, and is told from multiple points-of-view – this structure helped create the tension and there’s a wonderful sense of time and place. However, the focus is on the action rather than the emotion and, as a result, I spotted the twist well before the reveal. In an action-driven story, authors are more compelled to tie up loose ends – Patchett does exactly that and there was no reason to think about the characters once I’d closed the book.
I count myself as a Patchett fan and, being a completist, I will read all of her books but I wonder if I set the bar too high by beginning with Commonwealth and The Dutch House?
Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan
When Jessica Pan found herself jobless, friendless, and living in a new country, she decided that she needed to break from the comfort of her introverted life (she describes herself as a ‘shintrovert’ – a ‘shy introvert’), and spend a year living as an extrovert (the main goal being to make new friends).
Full disclosure: I’m an extrovert. I actually love meeting new people and I frequently have long conversations with strangers (after such convos, my kids have often said, “Did you already know that person?”). Basically, I’m Jessica Pan’s worst nightmare!
I read this book because I have many introverts in my life – I’m frequently forcing them out of their comfort zones, and I do wonder why they keep me in their lives, given that I’m so pushy… Anyway, Pan’s memoir was a nice glimpse into how ‘the other half live’. She wonders why all extroverts aren’t walking around as anxious, exhausted balls of nerves (and equally, extroverts might wonder why introverts aren’t all lonely and depressed – these generalisations reveal the flaws in generalisations!).
There’s a bit of explanation about the reptilian brain and why we are geared in certain ways, but ultimately Pan’s conclusions give us all something to think about – that extroverts can borrow some ‘self-reflection’ and ‘down time’ tips from introverts; and that introverts can borrow some ‘how to meet people’ and ‘how to turn acquaintances into friends’ strategies from extroverts.
Pan’s book is honest, very funny in parts, and horrifying (even this extrovert would draw the line at improv comedy classes).
Oh I just listened to Jessie Burton’s new book The Confession – that was a good one – on BorrowBox. Binged it in 2 days. Also, have you read State of Wonder by Ann Patchett? – that was my favourite of hers. You’ve probably got a million next books though.
I loved The Confession (I think I listened to it as well…?). I haven’t read State of Wonder – had ear-marked Bel Canto as my next Patchett – seems that that one and State of Wonder are reader favourites from her earlier releases.
I really enjoyed the Pan, but the other two were DNFs for me within the past year. Liar had a promising Atonement-style setup and I liked the biblical echoes and metaphors, but I felt no pull to keep going and find out what happened. Run felt contrived and, though there were a lot of interesting elements, they didn’t seem to fit together in the same book.
I know you’re unlikely to go back but Liar did get better as I got into it. It’s one of the best books I’ve read from a teenage POV for quite a while.
These all sound interesting. I’m an introvert but I always get into conversations with strangers which is odd. The thought of an improv comedy class brings me out in hives! I think I’ve got Run in the TBR somewhere…
I think in the introvert book it said that introverts (not of the shy variety) prefer one-on-one conversations to parties, for example, but like it even more if someone else starts the conversation. I’m the painful person that will avoid an uncomfortable silence by starting the conversation. Of course, when I am at work, I am quite able to sit with silence.
Great post! I felt the same about Run, it definitely wasn’t my favourite Patchett novel (especially compared to Commonwealth, which I thought was brilliant).
Hopefully my next one (probably Bel Canto) reverses the trend!
Bel Canto is really different from her others in my opinion- my hands down favourite is still Patron St of Liars! Hope you enjoy Bel Canto☺️
Re Liar, there’s a good story in today’s Crikey about the evidence in the Pell case. I’m sure he’s guilty of something (see full report of the Royal Commission) but the story discusses the problem of bringing a prosecution based on one person’s unsupported memories.
Thanks Bill, I’ll check it out. I’m also sure Pell is guilty of something – cases involving the sexual assault of children are rarely one (major) incident. Rather, those grooming kids are skilled at slowly building up to get what they want. The problem when it comes to bringing it to court is that, in isolation, these ‘small acts’ are hard to recall/ prove and when the accusation is about a single incident, it becomes almost impossible. Not difficult to see why so few survivors are prepared to go to court.
I was doing a lot of audiobooks last year and even started off this year with a good pace but since I’m working from home now I don’t listen to them. I was just using them for my commute and I realize I kind of miss them. All of these sound really interesting. Thanks for the reviews!