I’m really no good at trying to guess the outcome of books in which some kind of mystery is present. I’ll have something in mind and in the very next chapter that’s eliminated as a possibility so then I’m adrift again. Oh well – I enjoy watching them unfold.
So even with all the issues getting tangled and untangled in Big Little Lies I was pretty sure I knew the answer but too bad, so sad. Because we know that there is a serious uproar (a drunken brawl really) among the parents at the school function, Trivia Night and someone actually dies – it’s a murder. Then the narrative goes back in time to 6 months prior to that night and we slowly get acquainted with the players and the lead up to the function. All along the way, and it is quite a long way but Lee builds the suspense very successfully, we wonder who gets murdered as well as who done it.
The reason there’s a literary rating along with the crime one is that the ideas in the book go far beyond the normal crime novel, the structure is interesting, the characters well developed and there’s a theme or two to ponder.
Jane, a young, rather plain, self-employed, single mom and her son Ziggy are new to the community and school on Pirriwee Peninsula near Sydney, Australia. Madeline, whose daughter is in Ziggy’s class, befriends her. Madeline is a very stylish dresser, loud, bubbly, outspoken and takes people under her wing. I’ve never met a fictional character quite like Madeline, but I think I know a number of them. She’s a bit loud and seems quite self-assured on the outside, but inside there’s a deeply insecurity about her mothering skills and body image. She thoroughly enjoys feminine things like clothes, make-up, jewelry and high-heeled shoes. A very complex character Madeline is curious, flamboyant, likes having a good time but is quick to anger, protective of her children and friends, loving and imo, a great friend to have.
Also in this little circle of kindergarten moms is Celeste who has twins boys. Celeste is beautiful, married and very rich. But she too has her insecurities, her fears and foibles.
The interaction of these three women constitutes the main threads of the book. they each have serious problems, unfortunate backgrounds, extenuating issues. But their children are all in the same class in school where they are up against Renata, Harper and the other “blonde bobs” who apparently make up the power base. One of the main problems is that Jane’s son, Ziggy, is accused of being a bully who hurt Renata’s daughter on the first day of school. So Renata and company get really excited about it and start a campaign to have Ziggy expelled from school – viscous stuff. Is that enough to explain the murder which opens the narrative? If not, what does? Who is dead? Why? And who did it and how did this happen?
Other characters get cameo appearances, the sheriff, Miss Barnes, and several of the gossipy “blonde bobs,” as the reader is taken on a ride through the months prior to the murder and a bit afterwards. This doesn’t sound terribly exciting but Moriarity is a master of suspense. The first pages provide a frame which depict the scene immediately after the school function which turned into a drunken brawl and a resultant death. And it takes about 400+ pages before the solution – the sheriff and a journalist are interviewing people for their own reasons and we get little blurbs from them prior to the next episode in the suspense build-up. The reader doesn’t know who is killed or who done it until the end – we’re guessing throughout the novel. Good stuff. 🙂
Caroline Lee does a splendid job with the narration – the children are especially well done, imo.