Monday, 16 March 2020
REVIEW: All The Beautiful Liars by Sylvia Petter
All the Beautiful Liars
How true are the family histories that tell us who we are and where we come from? Who knows how much all the beautiful liars have embargoed or embellished the truth?
During a long flight from Europe to Sydney to bury her mother, Australian expat Katrina Klain reviews the fading narrative of her family and her long quest to understand her true origins. This has already taken her to Vienna, where she met her Uncle Harald who embezzled the Austrian government out of millions, as well as Carl Sokorny, the godson of one of Hitler's most notorious generals, and then on to Geneva and Berlin. Not only were her family caught up with the Nazis, they also turn out to have been involved with the Stasi in post-war East Germany.
It's a lot to come to terms with, but there are more revelations in store. After the funeral, she finds letters that reveal a dramatic twist which means her own identity must take a radical shift. Will these discoveries enable her to complete the puzzle of her family’s past?
Inspired by her own life story, Sylvia Petter’s enthralling fictional memoir set between the new world and the old is a powerful tale about making peace with the past and finding closure for the future.
How I love a story full of unreliable narrators! I absolutely loved this book. It reaches into the past in an indelible way, blending facts and fiction so skillfully that the reader becomes engrossed. The post-war life of the central character, Katrina, is brought to life very powerfully, particularly the years she spends away from the country of her upbringing.
It's a reminder that to understand ourselves we must understand the past, however unreliably it is told to us. it was also fascinating to me to consider how it must have been to continue to live when you're on the losing side - not just once with the Nazis but also with the Stasi. If love and compassion endure then so does fear and cruelty - sometimes hand-in-hand. Ultimately, I felt I cared about Katrina and admired the way she struck out on her own in the face of familial disapproval to make her own way in life. her indomitable spirit and intelligence are to be admired.
I'd love to sit down with the author and discuss all this, as it's based on on real events. Exhaustively researched, it imbues the story with a spirit of place that I feel could not exist without the the personal emotional investment of the author. Recommended.
Purchase Link: Amazon
Sylvia Petter was born in Vienna but grew up in Australia, which makes her Austr(al)ian.
She started writing fiction in 1993 and has published three story collections, The Past Present, Back Burning and Mercury Blobs. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of New South Wales.
After living for 25 years in Switzerland, where she was a founding member of the Geneva Writers’ Group, she now lives in Vienna once more.