BabyMac Book Club: Big Little Lies {the discussion}

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I did it! I read the book. It was down to the line (I stayed up till past 11pm last night) but it’s done. I read a book and it’s not holidays and THAT my friends is an accomplishment that I am proud of. I hope those of you who were able to join in who have been struggling with reading (and life) are also feeling a little smug too. Tonight on Facebook we will have a live chat and I can’t wait to hear what you all have to say about it, but in the meantime, I thought I’d start the conversation here. Please bear in mind that I have NO idea how a proper book club should or would discuss a book…I’m just having a crack!

*spolier alert: I talk about whodunnit and ALL OF THE THINGS so if you haven’t read it, stop here *

The Summary

The book is set around 3 main characters: Madeline, Celeste and Jane in the 6 months in the lead up and then the first term of Pirawee Public School in a fictional beachside town in Australia. These women are all at various crossroads in their lives and the plot leads to the climax of a murder that occurs and the Public School Trivia night. The story climaxes to the murder with lies, big and little keeping the reader turning those pages devouring the book quickly. The thing I love about Liane Moriaty’s books (I have also read The Husband’s Secret) is how you feel like you KNOW these people. The Australian setting makes the whole thing extra familiar and enjoyable I think.

The Characters

Madeline is funny and smart and I related to her. She has a 14 year old daughter with her ex-husband Nathan who also has a daughter starting in Kindergarten. She is remarried and has two other kids with her new husband and she is a force to be reckoned with within the school community. She is good friends with Celeste and takes Jane, the new girl in town under her wing.

Jane is a younger 23 or 4 year old single Mum who has moved to Pirrawee with her son Ziggy who is also starting Kindy. She has secrets that she is holding and she gets caught up in accusations of her son bullying another little girl in his class. She connects with Celeste and is mothered by Madeline.

Celeste is a beautiful and rich woman who has 2 twin boys starting at School. While everything may appear perfect from the outset she hides her own lies: her handsome and rich husband abuses her. During the book she plots her escape from the domestic violence and discovers even more about her husband and her own children along the way.

There are also a handful other sub-characters along the way. The voices of the other women pipe up in small vox pop type interview answers to the police in paragraphs at the start and end of some chapters. I must say at the start of the novel these really annoyed me as I didn’t know whether I had to remember who they were, but finally worked out they framed the intrigue around the murder and sometimes provided welcome comic relief. Perry/Saxon Banks was also an intriguing character who provided a lot of interest for me.

What did you think of the characters?
Who did you relate to most of all?
Anyone you wish they had developed a bit more? (probably for me that was Renata).

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Narrative

I must say that I got frustrated by the chapter length and style of interviews etc at the start of the book. See? Not the sharpest tool in the shed. But then once I got my head around the style and who I needed to concentrate on and the story developed I kind of just washed over those bits. There was also a love interest between Jane and Tom who worked at the cafe. Did this annoy anyone else or was it a nice part to add in?

Did anyone else feel the same about the chapter styles and the interview questions?
Did you think there was a good mixture of humour with serious stuff?
Did you enjoy the way the tension and intrigue built? Especially when they mentioned things in the future (like the funeral).

Themes

There were some central themes in the book that I thought were interesting.

  • Body image – such a huge one that were touched on by almost all of the characters (from the mothers at school to the teenage daughters to Jane’s mother and of course Jane).
  • The make up of the modern family – the working parents versus stay at home mothers, the nanny affair, the sharing of parenting with children from divorced families, the preparing for a marriage break up.
  • Bullying – were the acts of the children bullying any different or actually even less harmful than the stuff going on with the adults?
  • Abuse – domestic violence
  • Secrets/lies – the idea of sometimes the wrong thing being the right thing to do
The murder

While I knew the murder was going to happen the whole way through the book I was still guessing right up to the end. I thought it was going to be Jane, or Celeste murdered in the playground  by her husband.

Did you know whodunnit from the start?
What did you think of them wanting to cover it up? Was that plausible?
Did you think that Jane was dodgy & suspect from the start with her intentions of moving there?

So there is a start…and my thoughts on there book. I really enjoyed the fact that I KNEW these characters, we have all come across them in high school, or a P&C meeting. I liked all 3 women who led the story, I liked the way they all had their own secrets and problems and the way the story built suspense right to the end which had me turning the pages.

But I’d love to hear what YOU think! Did you enjoy the book? The characters? Themes? Narrative style? Plot?

As I mentioned I will be having a live chat on my blog’s Facebook page tonight from 8pm to go through some of the questions raised in this post. I hope you can pour a wine, put your feet up on the couch and have a virtual fireside chat with me then!

Comments

  1. Great wrap up Beth. I really enjoyed this book and agree, Liane has a wonderful way with characters in developing them as if they could be your next door neighbour. I love that about her writing. The one thing that irked me about the book, (which I reviewed on my blog yesterday actually!) was mixing the two tones of the book light-hearted humour vs serious subject matter. Part of me enjoyed being taken on a fictitious ride with the characters but I also felt uncomfortable with how the serious matters were a little undermined by the light-hearted tone at times. All in all though, a fab read.

    • I COMPLETELY agree! It annoyed me too. I kind of get why she did it, but there was some serious stuff in there and at times I felt like it was just touched on. Thanks for your thoughts Jodi 🙂

  2. I am reading (listening to audio book) this while trying to sew. I should have read the actual book, as the narrator does it no favours. I wince regularly at her emphasised character to voice……….yet to get to the end (I skimmed over the last bit of your blog), but it hasn’t really captured me. I’m blaming it on the narrator though…………p.s: that love thing between Jane & Tom is silly I reckon……..:)

    • It’s amazing how a narrator can ruin a very good book – agree with you on the Jane/Tom thing. Unneccessary. Good luck with getting it finished!

  3. Confession time. I have been so busy doing other stuff that I haven’t read it. If you were me, would you read it? Love to read good books but already have 4 on my bedside table that I’m reading all depending on my mood. Do I need a fifth? Is it worth it?

  4. I don’t know if I will be awake! to join in the discussion tonight so here’s my 2 cents worth.

    I thought the neighbour, Mrs Ponder, was going to narrate the book but she disappeared off the face of the earth except for head lice/new haircut segment so I wonder what was the point of that first long chapter. I agree that the little narrations from characters that we hadn’t met yet was annoying but really didn’t matter to the story. I always knew it was going to be the two least likeable characters that were involved in the murder, Bonnie and Percy. Moriarty has the habit in her books of tying everything up nicely and getting rid of the baddies. I didn’t like the end of ‘The Husband’s Secret’ either.

    I thought the bullying was ridiculous, they evidently employed someone to watch the child, forget her name, and still didn’t know it was one of the twins! I could see some of the women portrayed as real people I have met in the schoolyard. My children’s public school was in an affluent area and very cliquey.

    Jane was a pain for me, all that chewing gum. What was that about? The Tom being gay/not being gay was unnecessary too. What, she couldn’t talk to another man ever? She annoyed me.

    Celeste was in a hard place but I would have preferred that she didn’t contribute to and then blame herself for the violence. Although I understand abused women do blame themselves. Instead of all the charity donations I would have been socking it away to leave. The buying of Abigail’s virginity or not was a bit unbelievable.

    Madeline was the OK character for me. Her reactions to the new wife were pretty spot on. I thought it a bit farfetched to have them in the same school and class and suburb for that matter.

    Overall, I thought the book was a bit trite and I won’t be reading any more from her. I gave her a chance with 2 books but there are so many better books out there for my liking.

    My suggestion for the next book would be ‘The Rosie Project’ by Graeme Simsion or ‘The Collected Works of A J Fikry’ by Gabrielle Levin. Both really really good.

    • Oh Poppy – thank you! SO Much to take in from your wonderful comment!
      1. That neighbour thing WAS annoying – you’re right. And yes, too tied up at the end!
      2. As IF they wouldn’t have worked out the bullying – you’re right!
      3. The chewing gum thing was because Saxon told her she had bad breath all those years ago so she was obsessed with it. I think?!
      4. I liked Celeste. I was a in awe of her beauty just from the words.

      I’m with you – I don’t think I will read another one of hers (having read the Husband’s secret) there are better reads out there. I LOVED the Rosie Project. Might do it…was only thinking that this morning. Thanks again for your great comments and for joining in!

      • I agree with Poppy too.
        Part of it is that I live in a neighbourhood of Blonde Bobs and Madelines and Renatas but some of the story lines didn’t ring true i.e. Amensty donation, non gay Tom, Amabella (WTF!) and the bullying…
        I also read Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life which is challenging and bizarre in the way it’s written but a wonderful story.

    • Thankyou. I just finished The collected works of A.J Fikry and I really enjoyed it 🙂

  5. Hi Beth, I smashed that book in 3 nights. I enjoyed the read but I thought some of the characters were a little thinly drawn (almost like the author had rushed a bit). I’ve read her other book, The Husband’s Secret and felt similarly about that, though I enjoyed it. I felt like I knew some of the characters – every school has a Renata or two hanging around the gate, mobilising all the troops and being indignant/complaining/bossy. Found Jane a little irritating. Madeline was cool. I think she could have done more with Celeste. Abigail was a weird character for me too. All tied nicely with a bow at the end, don’t you think? And hot Tom = not gay, duh

    • Agree with everything you said! Would have loved Celeste explored a bit more too. Someone else mentioned the tied up ends all conveniently at the end (she did that with her other book too) and I reckon Tom & Jane was just not necessary. Thanks for joining in Eden x

  6. I started off so excited and wanted to love it but I find myself struggling to get it finished. I am finding the characters a bit annoying and it’s dragging on a bit but I hate not finishing books!

    • That was me Tully…I started and kept trying to get into it but got distracted. It got better towards the end so I managed to get through the last third in just a night. Good luck!

  7. I feel odd being in a book club when I actually don’t really enjoy over analysing books after I’ve read them, but I like that this prompted me to read something and I’m here, so I may as well give my two bob: I thought it was okayish ‘women’s trash’, if that makes sense, but far from amazing, but I was surprised at how it grabbed me towards the end, and I’ve read another of hers since that did the same – she does intrigue well for that style of book, but I agree with some of the thoughts that it was an odd combination of lighthearted writing/story and serious issues. A good airplane book, but I expect a little more after ploughing through some great books recently (books by John Green and Jonathan Tropper being the highlights).

    • It makes COMPLETE sense…certainly not too hard on the brain these ones. I agree that it’s perfect plane and holiday reading…not sure I will read another one of her books (that is until I am at the airport next!). Thanks for joining in Kirsty 🙂

  8. Oh so much to say but I’ll reign myself in for tonight! I agree with what has been said before about Celeste, she really could have been developed more.
    I think Moriarty nailed some of the school parents and those cliques but as a former teacher I think the whole bullying saga was unrealistic. I don’t know any principal who would allow the parent of a victim to attack the parent of a supposed bully in her office or put up with a petition to have ANY child suspended!
    I definitely agree that it was all too neatly tied up at the end. It REALLY annoyed me that Renata was such a tiger mum throughout the whole book, and for me a dislikable character, and then at the end she was all nice and sorry and forgiven – too neat and easy.
    I was happy for Madeline that Abigail moved home in the end but it was so badly written in to the story. There was next to no explanation given and it just felt a bit like an afterthought.

    • Agree with you about Renata…she seemed normal/nice at the end didn’t she? Again Abigail moving home was just ticking all the boxes at the end. Thanks for joining in Rachel 🙂

  9. Nicole Roberts says:

    I read the book in 3 days and I loved it!!! It was funny, as well as being real. And I thought it gave a pretty good description of characters that can exist in our everyday lives. Yes, they could have developed the characters a bit more, especially Celeste, Jane and Madeline. And I liked the story line of Tom and Jane. What I liked most was the guessing to the absolute end about who died and the twist with Bonnie’s past and also Jane’s past. Whilst some of it was “pie in the sky” and not a true representation of what would happen in reality, it is fiction. I also enjoyed the different style of writing and narrative (police interviews), once I settled in for the ride!! And stopped trying to guess who was going to die!!! I like to read books (and I read a lot) that entertain me and connect with me, as well as address some reality, and I think this book did all of these things!

    • All great points Nicole…thanks for joining in!

    • Ashley Martin says:

      Of all these comments, I agree most with Nicole’s. It was a fun book to read. The mix of seriousness and humor was both entertaining and true to life. Moriarty has a delightful style.

      I don’t have any complaints about how the book ends. As Robert Pirsig says in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”:

      “To live for some future goal is shallow. It is the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.”

      And so it is with this book. It’s the *story* that counts, not the ending. After the denouement there is a wrap-up, but the main story has already ended.

  10. Bele @ BlahBlah says:

    So glad I read this as I’ve been listening to the audiobook and wondering if I should’ve paid it more mind and actually read it, but it sounds like it’s not just the weird narrator with her kooky emphasis that is leaving me a bit cold x

  11. i agree about Jane and Tom.. was he supposedly not gay to begin with? No actual gay man is going to fall in love,with a woman he is chums with. Is this an expressed female fantasy?

    I thought Jane was too quick to accept Renata’s apology. How about a public apology at a parents’ meeting? What about an apology from Harper?

    Overall, I loved it. The gossipy distortion of the truth rang true. I disagree with others about Celeste’s story. She did just what battered women all do. The book showed an accurate picture of abuse.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Rosie Project and of course the books chosen in my book club (although not so much the last one): Big Little Lies and Dark […]

  2. […] to appeal. I’m not a huge Nicole or Reese fan , it looked way to “chick flicky” and having read the book I wasn’t convinced that I even loved the story so much. Plus I like to be able to watch things […]

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