Many of my CBR friends have read this book and raved about it, and the mini-series has brought Big Little Lies into a new cultural forefront. I decided to watch the mini-series, but because I am a by-the-book person, I decided to read the book first. This was actually quite a slow read for me, and there are lots of elements I’d like to unpack.
This is the story of three women: Madeline, Celeste, and Jane. Each of them has a child in a new kindergarten class, and each has her own story to tell. The novel moves backward and forward in time, starting in the present moment: a murder has occurred at the school’s Trivia Night Fundraiser, and we don’t know who. The novel then spends its time unfolding many little and large secrets and backstories that may or may not contribute to the murder and its aftermath. That’s really all I can say without spoiling anything.
Here’s the thing: Moriarty tackles a difficult subject, and I commend her for that. In fact, the final chapter and the culmination of this story is the reason I gave this book three stars instead of two. I’ll be interested to see how the show brings this issue to life.
That said, the book often approached it like a Very Serious Subject or After School Special, much like Kathryn Stockett in The Help, and I just didn’t think the writing was strong enough to make it sincere without falling into camp territory. The book is ultimately too long for what it’s trying to accomplish, and I don’t think framing it as a mystery/suspense served its goals very well. Even without spoilers, I accurately predicted the recipient of the Big Event mentioned in the first chapter, and the Big Reveal that led up to the Big Event made me roll my eyes.
Perhaps I’ve been spoiled for good family drama by Megan Abbott, but whatever the case, I think I much prefer her adult fiction. I’ll definitely watch the show, but I won’t be reading any of Moriarty’s other work.
Cross-posted to my blog.