Thursday, February 16, 2017

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Author: Liane Moriarty
Publication Year: 2014
Pages: 488
Genre: Suburban Noir
My Rating: 5/5


Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest. And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her.

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.


This book is one of those surprising delights that I didn't expect to love as much as I ended up doing so. The book has been described as "Real Housewives of Australia" mixed with something Gillan Flynn would write and as a "pink martini laced with arsenic" both of which I feel accurately capture the interesting mix of bubbly and humorous writing with biting and heartfelt observations on the daily tensions and violence that lie beneath the surface of pleasant suburban life. 

The story takes place in a picturesque, seaside Australian town and follows three kindergarten moms whose lives come together as their children start school in the same class. Madeline. Celeste and Jane become embroiled in school politics, rivalries, ex-husbands' new wives, stepchildren issues, friendships and machinations that make the school yard drama rival that of G-20 summit meetings. 

I absolutely loved the layout and pacing of the plot. At the beginning of the book it is revealed that a death has occurred at a school function, but we are not told who it was nor how it happened. Dispersed throughout the book are snippets of interviews with various other secondary characters who give their perspective on the night's events. The story line then jumps into the months before the incident occurs and narrates the events leading up to it until the ending when the shocking truth is finally revealed.

While this death is the central "mystery" of the book, I would not classify this as a mystery novel, rather the focus is on the relationships that the 3 women have and develop with each other, their children and spouses and themselves. The plot is juicy in an extremely engaging way that makes the book fly by but the characters were so well developed  that it kept the story from feeling cheap which it might have done in the hands of a less skilled writer.

What makes this book stand out from other 'mommy dramas' apart from the the fact that it revolves around a mysterious death, is the way in which Moriarty skillfully and sympathetically reveals the very human worries, flaws and thoughts that lie beneath the apparently perfect or mysterious facades of each woman.This book deserves a feminist hurrah, especially for it's depictions of solidarity and friendship. On the other hand, the book isn't great about diversity (racial or otherwise) which Moriarty addresses through one of the character's comments on how they are all "white privileged boring people". Overall though, it was a solid read, one that I think would be especially good for book clubs as it's sure to spark interesting conversation, and I definitely recommend it for anyone looking for an entertaining and thought provoking read.  

There will be an HBO mini-series coming out soon! It is produced by the bookish and wonderful Reese Witherspoon, staring herself, Nicole Kidman and Shaileen Woodley as the main characters. The series seems to address some of the books lack of racial diversity and from the trailer take a quite modern noir spin on the story. I can't wait to see how it turns out!

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