Thursday, October 2, 2014

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (2014)

Big Little Lies is the latest book from Australian author Liane Moriarty and it has been a huge success. As all the publicity material will tell you, it's been on the #1 New York Times' bestseller and the rights of the film have been optioned by Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. Since, as I recently admitted, I cannot resist a much-talked about bestseller, I immediately borrowed the book from the library and started reading right away.

And kept on reading, all day long, because this book is very good. The plot centres around three women who all have their children in the same local primary school. Madeline, although happily remarried, is still bitter about her previous divorce, which is not helped by the fact that the daughter she has with her second husband is in the same year level as the child her ex-husband has had with his new wife. Celeste is beautiful and rich but, while she seems to have everything she wants, is not quite right or happy in an oddly indiscernable way. Jane, who is much younger than the other two, is a single mother of a young boy who was fathered in mysterious circumstances. The three form an unlikely but strong friendship and, when Jane's son is accused of bullying, the primary school is split, often positioning the three women against the rest of the school body.

Although that description sounds serious, the book is in fact very amusing. The interaction between the primary school teacher and Jane is hilarious and I really empathised with Madeline's deliberate and persistent unwillingless to just let the past go. The relationships between the groups of parents ring true (PTA committees, dramas about birthday party invites and drunken bookclubs - all things I have been involved in!) and I really enjoyed the presentation of the subtleties of the political games groups of people who are forced together by circumstance engage in.

The one thing I am a little bit on the fence is is the portrayal of domestic violence. Just last week I had someone tell me that domestic abuse doesn't happen in their area because it's a nice wealthy suburb. By including domestic violence in this book, Moriarty does draw attention to the fact that domestic violence is not limited to not-"nice", poor people. This is very important! However, its description at the start of the book felt a bit fetishistic to me. This is completely fixed by the end of the book so perhaps I am being sensitive but I was definitely uncomfortable in the first 100 or so pages.

That said, I would unhesitatingly recommend this book. It is simply a very enjoyable, very fun read.

With each passing book, Liane Moriarty is becoming a better writer. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next. Four stars.

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