Liane Moriarty tells a good story. There is no denying that. It’s safe to say I’m marginally obsessed with her, so be aware this review is biased…
Big Little Lies is fantastic. So, so good. I bought a hardback copy in Chicago airport to get me through an eight hour flight back to London, and to be honest I didn’t want that flight to end (I hate flying.) What I really love about Moriarty is this – she has a lot of characters. Some people find this off-putting, I know, but Moriarty is so deft a storyteller that each character manages to massively contribute to the plot whilst have their own sub-plot and be an interesting, multi-layered character in their own right. Honestly, it’s miraculous.
This is one of Moriarty’s better books, too. Along with The Husband’s Secret (huge seller) I’d say it’s in the top two, and Moriarty has quite a few under her belt by now. Big Little Lies tells the story of three women: Madeline, dealing with the unpleasant fact that her ex-husband and his new wife have moved to her very own town, and had the audacity to place their daughter in the very same class as Madeline’s youngest; Celeste, who is beautiful, my favourite character and suffering a horrendously abusive relationship which she can tell nobody about; and Jane, a single mother who is new to the town and seems to have something to hide.
If that doesn’t already make you want to read, Moriarty opens the novel with a murder. She does this in true Moriarty style, with a large group of people avidly discussing it, some of them trying to blame the ‘erotic book club’, some of them blaming it on the headlice outbreak and some of them blaming it on the ‘incident in kindergarten.’ This is a small community, at the heart of which is the school, and Moriarty taps into that terrifyingly gossipy world that hides a mass of secrets and scandals whilst seemingly ticking along nicely in a pleasant suburban town.
At the root of it, this is a story about abuse. Moriarty has a cinematic gift for plotting and she ties each character together very cleverly, but this isn’t a light-hearted read (even though it may appear so at times). She conveys the struggle of Celeste – a very strong scene is one in which Celeste goes to view a little flat that she imagines she might move into with her sons, away from the tyranny of her husband – amazingly well, pressing the horror of the marriage up against the shiny windows of the public, so that we see Celeste and her family from both the outside (the perfect couple, the beautiful home) and the inside (the injuries, the cover-up turtlenecks).We are inside Celeste’s head as she bargains with herself, as she wonders what would happen if she left, as she tells herself that she’s being dramatic; it is at times heartbreaking to read.
Madeline and Jane are strong characters as well, and we end up rooting for all three women (Madeline is deliciously bold and watching Jane come into her own is like watching Bambi learn to stand and wanting to cheer). The plot never lets go, the pace never lets up, and this 450 page novel flies by. I cannot recommend this author highly enough; if you want true escapism, true fiction, a true story – buy Moriarty. Now. You won’t regret it.