Book review: Big Little Lies (2014)

Pirriwee Public is a beautiful little beachside primary school where children are taught that ‘sharing is caring.’ So how has the annual School Trivia Night ended in full-blown riot? Sirens are wailing. People are screaming. The principal is mortified.

And one parent is dead.

Was it a murder, a tragic accident or just good parents gone bad? As the parents at Pirriwee Public are about to discover, sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal…

If you’ve ever suffered the school gate collection of children, you’ll recognise the politics and cliques described in this book!

Here, kindergarten moms are under the spotlight with Renata’s gang and Madeleine’s gang. Jane, a young single mother upsets the apple cart and, when she rescues Madeleine from a twisted ankle, is firmly slotted into the latter’s camp.

Celeste is married to the rich and good-looking Perry, who travels a lot. Beautiful herself, she is diffident and occasionally distracted, and the story of her marriage – and its fallout – is gripping.

Everyone has secrets or fractures in their backgrounds – Jane and son Ziggy move every six months; Madeleine has to contend with ex-husband Nathan and his new wife, Bonnie,  whose daughter is also in the kindergarten class. There are affairs, career moms, stay at home moms, stay at home dads, part-time working moms, fulfilment, sacrifice, insecurities, half siblings – the whole gamut.

Moriarty handles all this with a deceptively light touch, illustrating perfectly the nuances of female friendships, the building of trust, the lies, the walls that build up, the things that get said, the things that are never seen.

The book nails several things perfectly: how quick we are to judge children, how quick we are to judge parents according to their children’s behaviour, how we assume that everyone else’s relationship is perfect, how difficult it is to negotiate step families and separations, how gossip magnifies the insignificant into the magnificent.

Would I recommend this book? Unreservedly

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