Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

publication date: 2014
pages: 458
ISBN: 978-0-399-16706-5

In Big Little Lies, Moriarty entwined the light-hearted and the serious. The book was, in turns, amusing and charming or moral and weighty. Set in Sidney, Australia, the book began in the relatively clean world of parenting kindergartners. However, we soon discovered that not everything was helicopter parenting and au pairs, and, in fact, a murder investigation was underway. Moriarty had a great writing style. She was punchy when she needed to be and subtle when that worked better. Here is a long example; it’s a passage from divorced mother Madeline’s point-of-view, as she’s remembering when her ex-husband left her with their newborn baby:

An hour later, she’d watched in stunned amazement as [Nathan] packed his clothes into his long red cricket bag and his eyes had rested briefly on the baby, as if she belonged to someone else, and he’d left. She would never ever forgive or forget that cursory glance he gave his beautiful baby daughter. And now that daughter was a teenager, who made her own lunch and caught the bus to high school all on her own and called out over her shoulder as she left, “Don’t forget I’m staying at Dad’s place tonight!”

Moriarty also included many pithy insights about contemporary parenting. Here’s how Madeline introduced the reader to her kindergarten-age daughter, Chloe:

While Chloe was busy bossing the other children around at orientation (her gift was bossiness, she was going to run a corporation one day), Madeline was going to have coffee and cake with her friend Celeste.

The book started very strong. It was funny, surprising, and interesting. Additionally, Moriarty was good at pacing and creating mystery and suspense. However, the book stalled a bit; the last quarter was even a little frustrating and disappointing. All the ends tied up too pat. Also, the theme was trite at times and some of the characters lacked dimension, especially the male characters. The male characters were generally sidekicks to their wives, or villains. This book was fun, mysterious, and insightful. There was something for most, notwithstanding the disappointing ending and repetition. I’m so close to giving it a 5/6, but I just can’t, especially because the book wasn’t very friendly, or even realistic, to its male characters.

4/6: worth reading

Other reviews:

New York Times
The Washington Post
Entertainment Weekly

4 comments on “Big Little Lies

  1. Katie says:

    I loved this book. The male characters didn’t stand out to me as one dimensional that much, but I was also focusing more on the female characters. I’ve read one of her other books and really enjoy her writing.
    Thanks for the review!

  2. Robin Williams says:

    I just read her book The Husband’s Secret (or something close to that). I really enjoyed it. I thought she did a great job with the characters. I do think she focuses on female characters, but probably because she can relate to them and wants to focus on them. Does she have to focus on men too? I don’t think so. I would like to read this book also. I think her books are very easy to read and keep me interested because of the characters I feel like I can relate to. It seems like I know someone like each of them. She seems to write all the talk in their heads and I think that is interesting. Love ya!

    • That’s a good point. I don’t know that she does have to focus on male characters, but it would have been nice for them to have some nuance beyond being villains or love interests.

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