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All the Beautiful Liars
by Sylvia Petter
Publisher: Lightning Books
Release Date: March 16, 2020
Genre: Literary Fiction
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.
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.
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources and Lightning Books for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.
I feel like it’s really hard to review someone’s memoir or even give it some sort of rating. I feel this way because how can I even judge someone’s life based on the words that they chose to put down on paper? Even if this book is inspired by Petter’s life, and isn’t considered her actual memoir, there are plenty of facts and events within this book that mirror her own story, and that’s part of the reason why this review is hard for me to write.
Reading the synopsis at first, I knew that I was going to be in for a pretty emotional and… possibly hard to read novel. Not just because of Katrina having to deal with a funeral, but with her whole family history. I don’t think a lot of people are usually happy or proud to hear about a controversial aspect of their family history, and with the way that society is today, having family ties to the Nazi regime is definitely controversial. I think that’s worse than stealing money from a government, but you can judge that for yourself.
Honestly if I were in a situation like this, I don’t even know how I would be able to function. I know not everyone’s family is perfect, but that’s not just a dysfunctional family that “has to be dealt with” or anything. It’s a little bit more intense, and even if it were just me who knew this, I feel like the shame of knowing that’s my family’s legacy would break me to the point that I don’t even know if I’d be able to show my face anywhere. That’s just how important family is to me, and my family. I couldn’t have something like that tarnish my family, even if it wasn’t my fault.
This book was intense, emotional, and definitely had me along for the ride.