Saturday, February 4, 2017

Big Little Lies

Book Review : Big Little Lies
Author : Liane Moriarty
My Rating : 4 out of 5 stars

I will be honest about this. This is not a book that I would have read at all. I didn’t even expect to like it. This book is simply not my type. HBO has been advertising about a series based on this book that stars Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley. With that kind of cast, I know I am going to watch it. In my opinion a book should be read before watching the screen adaptation. So I read it, and I was surprised to find myself liking it.

The story has three main characters, all women, living in a beach town in Australia and who have kids going to the same kindergarten class. In the very beginning of the book, the reader is told that a death happened during a function organized by the school, and most likely it was a murder. Who died and how is not told till the very end. The story starts a few months before the event. Jane, a single mother movies to the small beach town. On the very first day, she meets Madeline, who also was a single mother once. Madeline, and her friend Celeste, become Jane’s support system. She needs one, as the Kindergarten Mom Politics is quite strong in that town. As the story progresses, we learn a lot of details about these three characters and a bit about men in their lives. Eventually, the fateful night arrives and all the threads and sub-plots converge.

The double mystery, who dies and who did it, is smartly handled. We don’t even know who dies till the very end. That keeps the reader guessing, at least till the half-point. It’s a bit easy to narrow-down the options of who might die, but how remains a nice mystery. But this is not just a mystery book. The characters are developed nicely, and they are not single dimensional. The dialogues are smart, and the pacing is smooth.

The book also touches on many other aspects - domestic abuse, self-esteem, petty politics. It is also a satire on current parenting style. The school politics is completely far-fetched. I just don’t buy it. That’s one big negative. There are other small defects, like one character using Google to discover a simple fact, while the character which is most affected doesn’t. Not very believable. But if that character had used Google, the whole story wouldn’t have been possible. At the end of each chapter, there are dialogues from secondary characters about the investigation, that are cliched to the extreme. Finally, the male characters are only mentioned in passing, most of the time, and strictly from a woman’s point of view.

Leaving the defects aside, the book does a fantastic job of achieving the right balance between all the elements it uses. The character portrayal, shining light on domestic abuse, satire on modern parenting and of course the mystery. This is really the strength of the book. This balance is what keeps the book interesting, and makes us invest our time in it.

It’s a good read, not literary, but nice for relaxing lazy times. I am giving my recommendation, but I will admit again. It’s not a book that I would have read, even after reading a review like this, my own review. Because, I rarely feel satisfied after reading fiction, and on top of that, this is absolutely female centric. It still kept me glued and made me turn pages. Now, I look forward to the HBO series. 

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