Liane Moriarty’s international bestseller, Big Little Lies, has all the hallmarks of terrific school-gate-lit – the grisly details of PTA meetings, cliques, and passive-aggressive care-packages of vegetarian lasagne. And yet, this book left me feeling conflicted.
The story follows three women, each dealing with their own issues but united by the fact that they all have five-year-olds starting school. Extroverted Madeline is juggling her relationship with her teenage daughter from her first marriage, her ex and her current husband. Beautiful Celeste seems to have it all – a wonderful husband, gorgeous twin boys, plenty of money – but it’s not what it appears. Single mum Jane simply has a lot of baggage and is struggling to settle into her new routine.
Big Little Lies is pitched as light fare and Moriarty sets the scene in the opening chapters with ever-so-slightly snarky descriptions of mothers of gifted children, women boasting about bathroom renovations and strategic but pointed distribution of invites to a fifth birthday party. She covers all the stereotypes and drops in some enticing tidbits about the drama that will befall this group – it’s all quite fun.
Gabrielle – “It was an accident. Davina was hugging Rowena – she’d just made some sort of announcement. I think she’d reached her goal weight…”
Jackie – “No, Rowena had just announced she’d bought a Thermomix…. so of course Davina hugged her.
However (and it’s a big however), the story is predominantly about the very serious issue of domestic violence. I really struggled with switching gears between Moriarty’s rather glib tone about playground politics and Celeste being thrown against the wall by her husband. Sure, Moriarty never jokes about it or makes light of domestic violence but within the context of the story, I didn’t feel the issue was taken seriously enough.
There were other niggles. The protracted suspense, made more irritating by the back-and-forth between past and present, was tiring. And despite a few red herrings, I guessed one of the key plot points very early on, which made the slow eking of details doubly tiring.
2.5/5 Not for me.
The PTA creates a special cocktail for the Trivia Night, called ‘Not on a School Night’ – no idea what was in it but I do know they drunk a lot of them. Try a Paloma instead.
As part of the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, I’m comparing the Belfast summer and the Melburnian winter – the results for the day I finished this book (August 23): Belfast 13°-18°, Melbourne 7°-16°.