Having watched the mini-series before reading the book, I wanted to dig deeper into the characters that had been portrayed to me by the director Jean- Marc Vallée in an aesthetically beautiful way. I had also read What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty and thoroughly enjoyed her writing style, and the way she observed every day nuances. Big Little Lies could be a story about any one of us, a story of the image we project of ourselves to friends, to our neighbours, to work colleagues, to the internet, and the distance between this and our reality.
I was surprised to find that the prose took the same form as the series – almost as if it had been written with a screen-play in mind. Throughout the book there is narrative interjected with short pops of character interviews conducted by a reporter which had the potential to make the story difficult to understand, but actually added energy; helping to build tension, and of course the element of “whodunnit”.
Suffice to say, we are introduced to three women of young children who are just starting kindergarten, who in turn are introduced to the horror that is the school playground – by that, I mean for the parents: cliques and bullying don’t just exist within the school classrooms. Obviously the parents lives are often reflected in the lives of their children, and it is in this that the reader is presented with dual stories that are intertwined – that of the young children and their changing dynamics, alongside the personal lives of the adults with all of their issues and baggage.
Liane Moriarty builds images of personalities that are easy to relate to – real women who are just trying to get along in life.
Madeline is the product of her experiences; a single mum now remarried but having to face her flaky ex-husband on a daily basis, who has since turned into Dad of the year with his 5 year old child by his new wife Bonnie. With memories, anger and grudges all bubbling under, Madeline tries to keep a cool and dignified façade, but this is when it hits the hardest.
Celeste is so effortlessly beautiful and yet wracked with guilt because of it. She feels she has to live up to everyone’s expectations of her perfection when all she wants to do is scream and cry, and be held by her friends while she asks them if her life is normal.
Jane who is trying to fit in while she struggles every day with her son’s violent conception and wondering if he has his father’s traits. Of course, our trio of protagonists are not the only ones in this tale who are telling big little lies, but in this town, it has ended in a murder.
Moriarty has stepped up to the parapet with difficult themes of violent rape and ensuing conception, flaky ex-husbands who are transformed, and current husbands who are not – domestic violence. But she also gifts us the true nature of friendship amongst women, feminism and its strength, and mother\daughter relationship strengths. She has highlighted the way in which women protect each other and themselves when the shit hits the fan.
For such big themes, the author has given us an easy read, a kaleidoscope of characters, vivid imagery, and reasons for introspection. Even if you have watched the mini-series, you will want to read this book – it goes beyond the murder, it focuses on difficult moments in ways the series could not, and it has a different perspective on various aspects of our girls’ lives.
Is there anything you need to change or nurture in yourself? Time is an elusive thing, you think you have lots of it, only to wake up one day and find that youth has gone and you have been careless with yourself.
Big Little Lies is a story about just that – the way we project who we are and why, and the lengths we will go to, to make sure that no one knows what goes on behind closed doors.
Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin UK for my free ARC.
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