OK, I know I said that I wasn’t going to write a post this week, but that turned out to be untrue… we had such a lively discussion about the book this morning that I had to write about it while it was still fresh in my mind. We discussed Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, a writer who certainly knows how to tackle big, serious subjects in a lighthearted, palatable, often even funny way. “How is that possible?”, you may well ask, and I can’t tell you the method, but Moriarty manages to achieve it with finesse. In this novel, she tackles issues such as bullying, gossip, sexual assault and domestic violence that is sure to have you laughing out loud even as you are shaking your head in horror and disgust at what has just taken place on the page. It follows the events leading up to the infamous Trivia Night fundraiser at Pirriwee Elementary School and three very different women whose lives become intertwined as they find their way through domestic challenges of varying sizes and severity. Madeline is a mother of three, whose youngest, Chloe, is starting kindergarten, and whose oldest, at fourteen, is struggling to determine a course for herself as she emerges from under her mother’s wing. Madeline is loud and forthright and confident, and she loves to shop. Within the first few pages, Madeline meets Jane, a young woman who is new to the area and who, it turns out, has a son, Ziggy, who will be starting school in the same class as Chloe. Madeline introduces Jane to Celeste, a stunningly beautiful woman who, for some reason, always seems somewhat distanced from reality. Her twin boys, too, are in the same kindergarten class, and Celeste and Madeline welcome Jane into their circle and they become fast friends. These women face the other kindy mothers as they make their way way through the politics of school parents. When Ziggy is accused of bullying another student on orientation day, Jane questions her decision to move to the area, and whether she can ever fit in with these beautiful, confident people. The relationships between these women and their spouses, as well as with the other parents and members of the community is relayed to the reader, and we are sucked into the drama of everyday life in Pirriwee. Underlying all of this, the thing that drives the novel, is the mystery surrounding the death of someone within this community, as commented upon by minor characters at regular intervals throughout the story. I don’t want to give any more away, because the building of suspense and the discoveries the reader makes along the way about each character is so important to the book that it would be totally wrong of me to spoil it for anyone who has not read it. I’ve read it before, and I enjoyed it as much now as I did the first time, maybe even more because I had vague recollections of the ending so I could appreciate what was happening throughout the book more with that in mind. It was a full turnout this morning, and all of my ladies loved it! One women said it reminded her of the TV show “Desperate Housewives”, and the others agreed. Another said that the quotes from the minor characters made her crazy at the beginning, but once she reached the end, they all made sense and she even went back and reread them. She felt their purpose was to create suspense, and this technique really worked. Another member talked about the significance of the characters’ names: Mrs Ponder liked to ponder, Jane was Plain Jane, Renata was like royalty, Celeste was heavenly, Madeline was a bit “mad”, Bonnie was a “bonny lass”, and Harper was a harpy. We all agreed that Madeline was the most “real” character, that she was both entertaining and realistic, that she was open and communicative, and that she was a good mother. And we all thought her husband, Ed, was awesome, perfectly suited to complement her personality. We talked about the differences in parenting techniques these days from past generations, and how these changes are reflected in the expectations children have now, the ways they do or don’t connect with peers and family members, and the effects technological changes have had on children of today. We wondered how Moriarty could keep all the characters and storylines straight. I remember wondering, while reading, how she could even think this stuff up and get it to work so well together! I couldn’t name a single thing about this book to find fault with, and, as I told my group this morning, on a scale of 1 to 10, I would give this book an 11. There was so much more, but these are just the highlights. Someone mentioned that they heard this book was going to be made into a miniseries, with Nicole Kidman playing Celeste - I would love to see that. I rarely quote sections from books in my posts, but I want to end with this passage that occurs near the end of the book, which I feel sums it up pretty well: “It occurred to (Madeline) that there were so many levels of evil in the world. Small evils like her own malicious words. Like not inviting a child to a party. Bigger evils like walking out on your wife and newborn baby or sleeping with your child’s nanny. And then there was the sort of evil of which Madeline had no experience: cruelty in hotel rooms and violence in suburban homes and little girls being sold like merchandise, shattering innocent hearts”.
Wow, I just realized that this was a book about motherhood, perfect timing for Mother’s Day! I hope you have a good weekend, and take the opportunity to do something special for your mom or some other significant woman in your life.
Bye for now…