Big Little Lies / Liane Moriarty
Pirriwee Public's annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. A parent is dead. Was it murder, a tragic accident... or something else entirely?
Big Little Lies is a funny, heartbreaking, challenging story of ex-husbands and second wives, new friendships, old betrayals and schoolyard politics.
Big Little Lies is big. It starts with a murder, then rewinds six months and starts again. We don't know who has died, and we don't know how. But as we come across smiling partners, broken families and schoolyard cliques (the parents, not the children), we start to figure it out.
We meet three friends who fill very specific roles. There's Madeline, the confident, brash, antagonistic mum who always goes in to bat for friends and family, even when the other team hasn't bothered to turn up. There's Celeste, the skittish bombshell with the seemingly perfect marriage, an image carefully cultivated on Facebook. And there's 'plain' Jane, the young single parent still searching for her way in the world.
I'm not sure what to say about this book. I didn't dislike it. I raced through it - it's easy to read, and parts of it are highly enjoyable. But by the end, enough bothered me about it that I was glad I don't have a star rating for book reviews. I wouldn't have known where to settle.
I really liked the idea of the book's structure. Knowing the end point of the book (that there was a death coming), having that death as the reference point for the timing of the other events, and the interview snippets made for interesting reading. But I think it made the book longer than it needed to be. And, for me, it telegraphed the ending (bar one twist that had me thinking, "Oh. Okay," rather than, "WHOA! No way!").
The characters didn't ring true for me. The main characters felt stereotypical enough, but those quoted during the interview snippets felt like caricatures. Which would have been easier to forgive if they weren't being their 'career mum'/'stay-at-home mum'/'drama queen'/'earnest, well-meaning but overworked teacher' selves to the extreme while being interviewed immediately following a shocking death to which they were witnesses.
I feel like I'm sounding overly harsh. This book isn't bad - I've read 54 books so far this year and it's nowhere near the bottom of the list! It's well-written, well-structured (if long for this genre) and touches on a lot of topics other writers wouldn't go near. It just didn't rock my world.
Standout lines/phrases (the last of which just made me giggle):
- If she packaged the perfect Facebook life, maybe she would start to believe it herself.
- If parents had children who were good sleepers they assumed this was due to their good parenting, not good luck. They followed the rules and the rules had been proven to work. Celeste must therefore not be following the rules. And you could never prove it to them! They would die smug in their beds.
- ...There was real pain in the world, right this very moment people were suffering unimaginable atrocities and you couldn't close your heart completely, but you couldn't leave it wide open either, because otherwise how could you possibly live your life, when through pure, random luck, you got to live in paradise?
- [The drinks] were divine. Only problem was the Year 6 teachers made some sort of miscalculation with quantities so each drink was worth about three shots. These are the people teaching our kids maths by the way.
When I finished Big Little Lies, I would have recommended it. Now I've sat with the book for a week or so, I'm not sure. I think it depends on how real you want your characters to be.
Have you read Big Little Lies? What did you think?
Previous book reviews:
The Best Feeling of All and Your Best Year Yet
The Headmaster's Wife (my guest post at Allison Tait's blog)
The Night Guest
The Thirteenth Tale
The Shadow Year and Barracuda
The Paris Wife
Mister Pip and The Light Between Oceans
Big Brother and We Need to Talk About Kevin
The Shining Girls and The Fault in Our Stars