Prior to reading Big Little Lies, I had never read a Liane Moriarty novel before. But, I have to say, it was pretty good. It was a quick, engaging read but not empty fluff like quick reads can often be.
I will say though that after the first chapter, I was worried that it was going to be empty fluff. I mean, the name of the school is Pirriwee Public School and while I know elementary schools are often given twee names, that’s an awfully twee name. And the opening lines are about the neighbor who lives next to the school, a Mrs. Patty Ponder. Yes, that’s right, Mrs. Patty Ponder who lives next to Pirriwee Public.
Twee as heck, right? Yes, but I believe Moriarty did that on purpose. The whole of Big Little Lies is filled with misdirection. Deftly handled misdirection, I might add. Moriarty does a great job of showing that nothing is ever really what it seems. Yes, the book deals with several issues, such as sexual assault, bullying and domestic abuse, but the perpetrators and victims will surprise you. Oh, and there is also a murder. Well, someone dies at least.
The book is set in Australia, on the Pirriwee Peninsula. It’s not necessarily a wealthy enclave, but you do get the sense that most of the families are at least solidly middle class. We are mostly concerned with three families though. The family of poor, plain single mom Jane and her son, Ziggy. The family of Madeline, an older mom who comes across as a glittery, drama queen. And Celeste, possessor of otherworldly beauty and extreme wealth, and is the mother of twin boys.
Once I got past the treacle of the opening chapter, I really enjoyed reading Big Little Lies, with one exception. For some reason, Moriarty does a sort of Greek chorus thing where she has other parents and cops and community members (?) chime in to give their opinions on the goings on described in each chapter. I found this irritating because I didn’t know who half of the people were and I didn’t really find out anything of importance from their statements. I think they were supposed to be the statements made to the police regarding the incident at Trivia Night, but it read like gossipy nonsense to me.
But, gossipy nonsense and early twee-ness aside, this was a very well-written book. And the way the characters handled the very serious issues addressed was really satisfying. Not cliché or preachy in the slightest.
So, I guess what I’m saying is, that if you’ve been thinking about reading this book, go for it. It’s a surprisingly fun read given the subject matter.