Title: Little Big Lies
Author: Liane Moriarty
Release Date: 29th July 2014
Reading Time: 8-10 hours
Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. Celeste is royalty among the parent crowd. The two take a new to town, single mom under their wing, none of them realizing how the arrival of Jane and her little boy will affect them all. And there’s the murder. Or was it an accident? What’s indisputable is that someone is dead. But who did what?
I’ve never read anything by Liane Moriarty, and I’ll be honest, I probably never would have, if it weren’t the HBO series. I don’t venture into women’s fiction often, but as a bookworm, if I hear a TV show or movie is based on a book, I don’t care what genre it’s in, you bet your ass imma read that (that is how I discovered Harry Potter, at the tender age of 12).
Big Little Lies takes place in the perfectly perfect Australian suburban town of Pirriwee, where rich, beautiful, and self-absorbed moms take Kindergarten far too seriously. When single mom Jane moves to Pirriwee with her young son Ziggy, and befriends fellow moms Madeline and Celeste, their lives begin to unravel, secrets come to light, and a Parent Trivia Night ends tragically. But who is dead? How did it happen? And who is responsible?
The mystery element in Big Little Lies is really what piqued my interest, and what a mystery it is. Not only do we not know who the culprit is, we also don’t know who the victim is… Or even if there is a culprit! Is this a murder? A tragic accident? Who? What? Where??
But while I may have come for the mystery, I stayed for the characters. It took quite a few chapters for me to warm up to these women, who come across annoyingly superficial at first. Moriarty does a brilliant job of peeling back the layers of each woman, breaking through the stereotypes she sets up, to the flawed, insecure moms underneath, and creating real characters whose relationships you become invested in. At first glance, all we see is the glossy ‘mommy wars’ and the over parenting, but as we delve deeper, we’re faced with issues of bullying, abuse, and tragic pasts, and we see how these issues have shaped these three women. I think it’s hard not to care for them, and the more I read, the more anxious I became that one of them was dead.
The format is also quite interesting, with the main action leading up to the disastrous Trivia Night broken up by little gossipy snippets from after said Trivia Night, offering clues to what really went down. I didn’t like these at first, because I had no clue who these people were, and it was all confusing as heck, but as the novel progressed, they grew on me, and I can appreciate them for the clever little suspense device they are.
With so little information to go on, I didn’t figure out all the answers to the big mystery until very late on, which was fun. The twists involving Jane and Celeste weren’t that elusive, but even though I knew what was coming, they still played out nicely.
I didn’t think I’d enjoy Big Little Lies as much as I did, but after a shaky start, I couldn’t put it down. If you’ve yet to watch the series, I recommend you read this first, because let’s be honest, the book is always better. And if you’ve never read anything by Liane Moriarty before, this may be a good place to start.
TL,DR: With an original take on the murder mystery trope, and real, relatable characters, there’s more to this novel than meets the eye.