The Liars by Petronella McGovern

This book is a captivating condemnation of Australia’s whitewashed history, an exploration of the merits of vigilante justice, and an exposè of small-town politics - all with a little murder mystery thrown in.

When highschool activist Sienna Britton discovers a human skull in a national park, the close-knit community of Kinton Bay erupts with accusations, defences, threats, and condemnations. Does the skull belong to one of Kinton Bay’s (many) missing persons, or is it the long-awaited evidence of a massacre of Aboriginal people commited by the town’s revered founder?

The skull’s discovery is the impetus for a police investigation - a cold case warmed up - that also dredges up accusations of sexual violence, toxic masculinity, bullying, hate crimes, and drugs. However, at its heart, the investigation reveals and reflects the darkness of Australia’s colonial history.

As such, the themes of this book resonated with me strongly. Confronting Australia’s past and present treatment of Aboriginal people is something that needs to be at our nation’s forefront. However, we need to think about who is leading this charge - are white activists taking up space from Aboriginal voices, are media portrayals doing more harm than good, how can oral histories compete with a history written by the victors? The Liars addresses these issues in a thought-provoking, yet still entertaining narrative.

Petronella McGovern leans into the Home & Away-esque setting of Kinton Bay to lay bare a community in chaos. I found the setting to be uncomfortably relatable - while the town is fictional, it felt all too real.

I enjoyed the mix of POV narration, which helped build suspense and flesh out character motivations. Petronella McGovern has a flair for crafting characters that feel lived-in and fully realised - even if they are all liars.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Big Little Lies or The Dry. A great Australian read.

Title: The Liars

Author: Petronella McGovern

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Publication date: 30 August 2022

RRP: $32.99 AUD