Sunday 21 June 2015

#CBR7 Book 64: "Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty

Page count: 462 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

I can't believe it's been nearly a month since I read this book. Because of my massive backlog, I'm going to resort to my favourite short-cut, stealing the blurb from Goodreads:

A murder...a tragic accident...or just parents behaving badly? What's indisputable is that someone is dead. But who did what?

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads: 

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She's funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his new yogi wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarden class as Madeline's youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline's teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline's ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn't be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all. 

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

This is yet another book that it feels like I read after everyone and their mothers had discovered, read and raved about it, while I foolishly believed it was not for me. It's happened many times before, most notable with Jenny Lawson's amazing biography, the very funny Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, earlier this year with the lovely Station Eleven and now again with this. I had convinced me that this was just some sort of mommy version of Mean Girls with PTA moms gossipping and figuratively stabbing each other in the back. I was so very wrong, and I should have listened to all the eloquent and well-written reviews of my fellow Cannonballers. Sorry guys. It was only when my kindred spirit and book twin on the internet, Narfna, posted this review that I finally decided that OK, let's see what all the fuss is about.

I was hooked before I'd even finished the first chapter, where it's made clear that something very bad has happened at the trivia night of Pirriwee Public School. Of course, with chapter two, the action jumps six months back in time, introducing the reader to the three protagonists, three wonderful, interesting, but also vulnerable and flawed women who feel beautifully realistic and who at least I grew to love very quickly, for all that I understood that like my own friends, they would occasionally exasperate and annoy me, all the while they were there for me and had my back. You know from the very first chapter that someone is going to die at the trivia night, but Moriarty keeps you on tenterhooks as to who said individual is going to be.

This book is so many things. Contemporary drama and mystery, it's very funny at times and heart-breakingly touching (at least to me) at others. It explores both the complicated friendships and rivalries between women, motherhood and the insecurities of getting older. The relationships between husbands and wives, both current and divorced, mothers and their children, teachers and parents. Sure, there are petty school intrigues and women gossipping about each other, but that's such a tiny part as to seem almost insignificant. There are a number of other issues explored in the book as well, that I don't want to reveal, because this book really is best read when you go into it more or less ignorant, able to face the surprises and plot twists as they are sprung on you. Suffice to say, it's about the importance of friendships, of not being too prejudiced and judging before you have the whole picture - and about the many secrets that we keep from our friends and loved ones because we fear to seem weak or less in control.

I wanted Madeline, Celeste and Jane to be my friends. I don't think there was a single chapter when I wasn't at least a little entertained. Every time I thought I knew where the story was going, there would be something new revealed that I hadn't counted on. There were absolutely some bits that didn't work as well for me, mainly Madeline's jealousy of Bonnie, her ex-husband's new wife and the rather wearying lengths her teenage daughter went to get attention, but those were such small things and this book made me laugh and cry, bite my nails and most importantly, turn the pages with bated breath with each chapter bringing me closer to the fateful trivia night and its aftermath. I cursed the work load that made it impossible for me to just devour the book. So, if you, like me, might think from the book description that this book isn't for you - give it a chance - it's such a good read.

I will absolutely be reading more Liane Moriarty. In the acknowledgements, I discovered that she's the sister of another Australian writer whose books I love, the YA author, Jaclyn Moriarty. It just seems unfair to me that two such talented writers are related, but perhaps great writing skill is genetic.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read, where you can also find MANY more reviews of this book.

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