Review - BIG LITTLE LIES, Liane Moriarty

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

After a few attempts, managed to finish BIG LITTLE LIES over the weekend. There's a reason this has been a bit of a chore explained below.

Funny and quite cleverly constructed, BIG LITTLE LIES is about every day lives. If you're a mother, an ex-wife, a daughter, a second wife or possibly if you've ever been in a schoolyard or involved in the grass roots "political" movement that those environments seem to be, then there could be resonances throughout this book. There's a light-hearted, slightly tongue-in-cheek tone used to tell this story, that even finishes chapters with asides, attributed to many of the players, in which the guts of the matter is there to be found.

Within the narrative itself there is much in the way of slight digs at those players - the schoolyard politics, the bullying, the teenage obsessions, the middle-aged obsessions, the shoes, the cars, the houses and the community. Scathing without necessarily being searing, it's smart, pointed, and feels like it's coming from an author that is obviously a spot on observer.

Stripping away much of the tone, and the light, seemingly frivolous layers however, there is an undercurrent of domestic abuse, bullying and some pretty nasty behaviour eventually exposed. And therein we start to get to the crux of this reader's concerns about this book.

There's something oddly "chick-lit" about the style here, a style which is being used to talk about the very serious problems outlined above. Which feels like an unfortunate skewing, burying any likely messages for perpetrators under a cloud of irrelevancies. Or is this slightly tongue in cheek an attempt to belittle the entire scenario which surely ends up making the situation for victim's worse than it already is.... Either way the messaging here felt wrong and uncomfortable.

It's also flagged as a crime novel, and whilst there is a crime committed, that alone does not qualify something as a crime novel to this reader's mind. Of course it could, perhaps, be pushing Domestic Noir somewhere different, it could also be a flat out domestic drama style, but that whole "chick-lit" aspect again, seems somehow to devalue the noir and the drama and instead turn it dangerously towards pastiche. Having said that, whilst there obviously should be no firm rules about what constitutes a crime novel, the old chestnuts of who, how or most importantly why surely have to have some relevance, although they seemed missing in action here.

Of course I'd be the first reader to admit I have a severe allergy to girly chick-lit novels, so the commencement of BIG LITTLE LIES gave me a bad dose of the heebie jeebies. Struggling on, again and again, to finish the book because, despite the hives, I've read and enjoyed a few books from the lighter end, things did appear to look up once the social niceties and the shoes, and the coffee chats stripped back to reveal the crux of the matter, but it took so long to get to that point, and the gossipy asides, and the faux tension being built around the "body" drove me utterly and completely bats. 

Now, after finally finishing BIG LITTLE LIES, I simply can not get past the idea that whilst it's a mildly interesting book with too much frippery for my taste, any classification of "crime novel" be it thriller, crime, investigation, psychological, domestic noir or procedural is utterly and totally misplaced.

Year of Publication

'I guess it started with the mothers.'

'It was all just a terrible misunderstanding.'

'I'll tell you exactly why it happened.'

Pirriwee Public’s annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. One parent is dead. Was it murder, a tragic accident...or something else entirely?

Big Little Lies is a funny, heartbreaking, challenging story of ex-husbands and second wives, new friendships, old betrayals and schoolyard politics.

No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Liane Moriarty turns her unique gaze on the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves every day and what really goes on behind closed suburban doors.

Let me be clear. This is not a circus. This is a murder investigation.

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Karen Chisholm
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
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