Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big LittleBIG LITLE LIES is a superior, haunting, and thought-provoking drama about husbands and wives, friendships, and the secrets and lies that bind and separate us. Ostensibly about school politics, Liane Moriarty’s novel could easily be classified as a psychological thriller; its intriguing setup – the death of a parent at a trivia night, the identity of whom is kept under wraps until the very end – adds a ticking-time bomb element to proceedings, augmenting an already stellar tale into ‘unputdownable’ territory. Without a doubt, BIG LITTLE LIES is one of the best novels of 2014.

There is no shortage of potential suspects. Grievances and grudges proliferate in the high-stakes world of school politics. Readers will enjoy the clues and red-herrings Moriarty adds to the story, but is never heavy-handed with them. The novel’s not intended as a whodunit; it’s an examination of the lives of multiple families, centred around one kindergarten class. The author deserves much kudos for its structure; the standard third-person narration is interspersed with quotes from interviews with various characters who flit in and out of the main plot. It’s a fun, innovative way to break up the text, and these snippets are responsible for much of the novel’s humour, as witnesses completely misinterpret certain events.

The plot is labyrinthine, and upon greater scrutiny relies on some improbable circumstances and coincidences. In the hands of a lesser storyteller, these might be insurmountable obstacles; but Moriarty deftly weaves her way through potential minefields with flawless characterization and her portrayal of the lives of several families. There is dark undertone to BIG LITTLE LIES – at its core, it is a novel about domestic abuse – but the moments of humour, of genuine laugh-out-loud moments, means the novel is never wholly downbeat or depressing. Indeed, Moriarty expertly balances the scales; moments of stomach-churning violence, rendered simply and effectively rather than graphically, are interposed with comical parental moments – a hilarious observation by one of the kindergarteners, or an overreaction by an overzealous parent. For every page-turn that necessitated a furrowed brow, we’re never far away from a scene sure to have parents, and non-parents, grinning for ear to ear. Like life, BIG LITTLE LIES is full of highs and lows; but its quality remains steadfast throughout.

This is a novel about how the lies we tell ourselves are often the most harmful. But it’s also about friendship, and the relationships that form through sheer circumstance; we don’t choose the classmates our children bond with at school; there’s no pre-selection involved in deciding which parents we welcome into our lives. There’s something sacred and pristine about the manifestation of those alliances, and they deserve to be celebrated and cherished. BIG LITTLE LIES is a powerful portrayal of family life; guaranteed to make you laugh and cry, and be grateful for the loved ones in your life.

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