Big Little Lies is about a tragic event that takes place at Pirriwee Public’s annual school Trivia Night. A parent is dead but it is unknown who, how or why. Set in Sydney, Australia the story looks closely at the stories of three women (Celeste, Madeline and Jane), and the big little lies they tell and keep every day. Things are not always how they seem from the outside.
Although the story is fictional, Moriarty writes characters within an excellent story line that makes it extremely believable and relatable. As the reader you sympathise for what happens to each character, you wished you could help them, and you want to know what happens after. There are many likeable and different characters in the book. The main three (Celeste, Madeline and Jane) are all vastly different but interesting in their own way. The events that individually happened to them is different and the family dynamics they each have is unique and that’s what makes the book so engaging. There are multiple perspectives with a common thread: they each have children attending the same school in the same year.
Moriarty’s style of writing is quite unique: she incorporates multiple character’s perspectives within single chapters, while having a constant thread of interview segments at the end of most chapters. When you first start the book you are aware of the main event but not the finite details. When the interview segments for other side characters start appearing, you don’t feel confused, you are being taken along for the ride. The techniques Moriarty uses are so intricate that using simple writing allows her craft to stand out.
Not wanting to give too much away, the book discusses a few key themes and ideas throughout. The main ones are: domestic violence and abuse, sexual assault, cheating and affairs, parenthood, manipulation and deceit for the sake of personal gratification. Within this is the gossip and drama that most likely happens within a lot of schools between the parents and carers and how that starts to affect the children. What Moriarty does brilliantly is open up the conversation of these big themes and ideas and places them into an every day context. There is a thread of education and perspective felt throughout the book. A lot of things that happen surrounding domestic abuse and violence may seem like an obvious one but for the average person or situation, it is far from it.
Moriarty has achieved a balance between talking about some pretty heavy themes and placing it within the every day. She hooks in the reader through having a dark, suspenseful plot that doesn’t appear sinister until the event unfolds. The reader is engaged from start to finish and won’t feel overwhelmed by too many characters or sub-plots. This book (and story) will appeal to a lot of people, especially if you enjoy previous books by Moriarty or have already watched the HBO adapted series. If you like fast-paced fiction reads with an interesting plot, this is the book for you.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. There were a lot of moments throughout where I enjoyed Moriarty’s analysis of ‘the bigger picture’ (i.e. domestic violence and abuse, affairs, parenthood) but through the characters inner dialogue. The writing in a lot of ways is written quite simplistically but that’s a good thing – the story is easy to follow. Each reader may take away something different from this book, as it will affect people in many ways. On a surface level, when you look at how the story is about a bunch of primary school mums you think, hm, really? But when you start reading, and learn more about the back stories of Madeline, Jane and especially Celeste, you think, I judged too soon.
Big Little Lies is a fantastic, easy read that will have you engaged from start to finish. It is a book that you will think about long after the final page is turned. You may even become a little more observant or analytical about the topics and themes covered. I highly recommend this book.