Book Title: Big Little Lies
Author: Lian Moriarty
This review is long long overdue and yet I’m doing it not because of a professional commitment but because I’d promised myself this book was too good to be buried in my “read’ list and forgotten. I know I’ve raved about it on social media so that almost all my friends have read it and yet I’m going ahead with the review because it’s worth it :-).
I already said in my Teaser Tuesday how Big Little Lies kept me awake at nights. I’ll add now that it lived up to its promise right up to the last chapter.
This is essentially the the story of three kindergarten moms whose children start school together. They all go to Pirriwee Public School. There’s Madeline, mom of two – a teenage daughter (with her ex-husband) and a kindergartener. There’s the ethereally beautiful Celeste who has a pair of rambunctious twin boys and there’s Jane and her son. There are two more moms who are a crucial part of the story – Renata, the high-flying executive mom and, Bonnie, wife of Madeline’s ex husband.
Did I just confuse you? Well just go over this again because these are the ones you need to watch out for. There are half a score more that had me thoroughly confused for the first few pages of the book. However as I read on they began to take on personality and form alignments and cliques.
That’s the best bit about the book – it unravels slowly, page by page and that is what keeps you hooked.
But I’m digressing. Back to the story.
The book opens with a murder but you don’t get to know who was killed till the very end. So while most thrillers focus on figuring out ‘who did it’ and ‘how it was done’, in this one we’re also wondering who died. A murder investigation thread runs through the book.
But that isn’t the only mystery. On the first day of school Jane’s son, Ziggy, is accused of bullying Renata’s daughter Amabella. While Amabella says it’s him, he steadfastly refuses to accept his crime. His mom, Jane’s believes him instinctively, but she has a secret which prompts her to doubt him.
What I felt/thought
Big Little Lies has the distinction of making me break my resolve of never reading the end of a book before I actually get to it. Twice.
This might make the book seem like a thriller, which it is, but to say that it is just that wouldn’t be fair. It is much more, bravely tackling issues like domestic violence, rape, co-parenting, single parents, stay-at-home moms vs working moms and teenage angst. There are scores of everyday issues that kindergarten moms handle – last minute school projects, birthday parties, playdates, bullying and of course parent politics. I could identify with a lot of it and that’s what made the book enjoyable.
The TV series
While I’m at it, I also have to mention the television series based on the book starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley.
I watched it after I read the book because I simply didn’t want to step out of the Big Little Lies haze.
It’s a great watch with some wonderful moments and inspiring dialogue. My favourite bit is where Nicole Kidman, who plays Celeste, takes up a case (she was a practicing lawyer before she had the twins). She scores a win in the negotiations and comes away on a high. And she shouts out, ‘Being a mother is not enough for me.’ I loved that scene. The sense of freedom she feels in verbalising that thought, which perhaps has been dormant in her head for some time, is so beautiful to watch. Also, the scenes of domestic violence are brutal. They made me snap out of my long time crush on Alexander Skarsgard (which I’d developed after watching The Legend of Tarzan), completely and very rudely, I might add.
It is available on Hotstar in India, in case you want to watch it.
That said, I have to mention that the book is much better. It is much more layered revealing the story bit by bit while never letting the pace flag. Do read it first. You’ll know why I say so once you do.
Last thought: Go for it.