As everybody knows, sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal…
So, they are not exactly little.
But, when it all starts, they are not that big either.
So, let’s just call them:
Who Should Read “Big Little Lies”? And Why?
“A brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive,” Big Little Lies should disappoint no one.
Especially not women.
But read it if you are a man, nevertheless.
Liane Moriarty Biography
Liane Moriarty is a bestselling Australian author.
She spent some time working as a copywriter at an advertising company before embarking on a career as a writer.
In 2004, she published her first novel, Three Wishes, written so as to obtain a master’s degree in creative writing at Macquarie University.
The Last Anniversary followed two years later, after which What Alice Forgot and The Hypnotist’s Love Story came out.
In 2013, Moriarty’s fifth novel, The Husband’s Secret, made both The New York Times and The USA Today bestseller lists; the rights to the novel were soon acquired by CBS Films, and a Blake Lively-starring thriller is already in production.
Big Little Lies – which debuted at #1 on The New York Times bestseller list in 2014 – was adapted last year into an award-winning HBO miniseries, starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon.
The two have already optioned the rights for Truly Madly Guilty, which was published in 2016.
Moriarty’s last novel, Nine Perfect Strangers, came out just last month, September 2018.
Find out more at http://lianemoriarty.com.au/
Big Little Lies opens with two very interesting and thought-provoking epigraphs.
The first one is a schoolyard chant you’re probably already familiar with: “You hit me, you hit me, now you have to kiss me.” The second is a pledge and promise by the Pirriwee Public School:
Pirriwee Public School
. . . where we live and learn by the sea!
Pirriwee Public is a BULLY-FREE ZONE!
We do not bully.
We do not accept being bullied.
We never keep bullying a secret.
We have the courage to speak up if we see our friends bullied.
We say NO to bullies!
And, of course, there’s a reason for both of these epigraphs.
Not the least because the book begins at Pirriwee Public School where the parents of the children who go there participate in a fundraising trivia night.
However, this is not just an ordinary trivia party. Namely, it’s an “Audrey and Elvis” trivia night, which means that all the women present are dressed up as Audrey Hepburn, and all the men are dressed up as Elvis Presley.
Obviously, this means that it’s kind of hard to realize who’s talking to who and what exactly is going on there. And then, an Elvis punches another Elvis across the jaw, and he falls into an Audrey. Two other Elvises pull him away. An Audrey buries her face in her hands and turns aside.
And as someone is shouting “Stop this!” and another one is wondering whether to call the police, a siren is heard wailing in the distance.
Also – a scream. And another. And another. It seems that they are all coming from a nearby balcony.
Then we hear everyone blabbering about things as confusing and diverse as the American spelling of “mum” and helicopter parenting, the Erotic Book Club and French nannies.
Suddenly, Detective-Sergeant Adrian Quinlan utters a chilling sentence: “Let me be clear: This is not a circus. This is a murder investigation.”
So, apparently, someone – presumably, one of the parents – has died.
However, Moriarty doesn’t tell us who. Instead, she goes back in time to tell the whole story.
Chapter 2 – Chapter 70: The Six Months Before Trivia Night
The second chapter begins at the fortieth birthday of Madeline Martha Mackenzie as she is driving to Pirriwee school to take Chloe, her five-year-old daughter, to her orientation day.
However, at a red light, she has a slight mishap: she goes out of the car, and as she runs back to the driver’s seat, she trips.
Jane Chapman, a single mother of another five-year-old, Ziggy, happens to be in the car behind her. She goes over to help her and the two strike a friendship.
Soon, Jane meets Celeste Wright, a friend of Madeline and mother of two twin children – Josh and Max.
Madeline, Jane, and Celeste become inseparable. Their goal – to become the new Blond Bobs, the mums who “rule the school” with their perfect haircuts (hence the name) and their horrendously gifted children.
The Blond Bobs are “mum prefects,” explains Madeline. “They feel very strongly about their roles as school mums. It’s like their religion. They’re fundamentalist mothers.”
However, all is not well beneath the surface. In quite a short period of time, we learn that, unfortunately, all of these women have to struggle with some significant problems in their lives.
1. Madeline’s Two Marriages
Madeline’s problem seems to be the least serious one.
An alpha female with substantial wealth and strong will, she is married to the dedicated and steadfast Ed. Chloe is one of the two children from that marriage, the other being Fred.
However, Madeline is also mother to teenage Abigail, whose father Nathan abandoned them when she was an infant. The problem is that now Abigail, for some reason, is growing too close to Bonnie, Nathan’s new wife.
2. The Price for Celeste’s “Perfect” Life
Moving on to Celeste.
As Jane realizes from her first meeting with her, she is “so unacceptably, hurtfully beautiful, it [makes] you feel ashamed.” However, the fact that she is exactly like a woman should look like doesn’t mean that her life is exactly like a woman’s life should be.
On the contrary, in fact.
You see, just like Rupi Kaur warns in one of her poems, she has somehow confused anger with kindness. And even though her life seems perfect on the surface, she is in fact continually beaten up and abused by her wealthy husband, Perry Wright.
And she puts up with it.
Possibly because she has developed some form of the Stockholm syndrome. Possibly because she loves her husband so much. Or maybe because we grow up with life lessons such as the one shared by the schoolyard song Moriarty uses as an epigraph to her book.
“No one deserves to live like this,” Celeste’s counselor Susi says at one point.
What does she know? – thinks Celeste. After all, she hasn’t seen the whole of their lives:
She hadn’t seen the expression on the boys’ faces when Perry spun his crazy stories about early-morning flights across the ocean. ‘You can’t really fly, Daddy. Can he fly, Mummy? Can he?’ She hadn’t seen Perry rap-dancing with his kids or slow-dancing with Celeste on their balcony, the moon sitting low in the sky, shining on the sea as if it were there just for them.
‘It’s almost worth it,’ she’d told Susi.
Perhaps it was even fair. A little violence was a bargain price for a life that would otherwise be just too sickeningly, lavishly, moonlit perfect.
So then what the hell was she doing here, secretly planning her escape route like a prisoner?
3. Jane’s Painful Trauma
Jane, a new arrival in Pirriwee, has a terrible secret of her own. Namely, she doesn’t want anyone to know what happened on the night her son Ziggy was conceived. Spoiler alert: she was basically raped as a 19-year-old girl by a guy named Saxon Banks.
Yes, she was there to have sex with him. And yes: she did not change her mind and did not say “no” when it all started. In fact, “she helped him take her clothes off” and “giggled like an idiot” throughout.
However, instead of replying “yes” to Jane’s murmur “condom?” Saxon started choking her and convincing her that it’s fun: “You’ll like it. It’s a rush. Like cocaine.”
He backed off after some time.
But then it got worse:
He positioned her underneath him and shoved himself inside her as if he were operating some sort of basic machinery, and as he moved, he put his mouth close to her ear and he said things: an endless stream of casual cruelty that slid straight into her head and curled up, wormlike, in her brain.
‘You’re just a fat ugly little girl, aren’t you? With your cheap jewelry and your trashy dress. Your breath is disgusting, by the way. Need to learn some dental hygiene. Jesus. Never had an original thought in your life, have you? Want a tip? You’ve got to respect yourself a bit more. Lose that weight. Join a gym… Stop the junk food. You’ll never be beautiful, but at least you won’t be fat.’
Jane didn’t resist in any way, silently agreeing with everything. “When he rolled off her,” says the novel, “she didn’t move. It was as though her body didn’t belong to her anymore, as though she’d been anesthetized.”
4. The Intertwining of the Stories
Jane shares her traumatic sexual experience with Celeste and Madeline. Interestingly, the two know exactly who Saxon Banks is: a cousin of Perry, Celeste’s husband.
However, in order to protect Jane from further pain, Celeste and Madeline decide to keep this a secret from her; at least for the time being.
Things go from bad to worse when Ziggy is accused of biting and choking Amabella, a classmate of his. While interrogating him, Jane realizes that it is not him who has done the bullying, but Max, one of Celeste’s twins.
Now, Jane too has a secret she doesn’t know how to break to Celeste.
Meanwhile, Celeste’s marriage deteriorates even more. So, she starts renting an apartment for herself, so that she has a place where she can hide from Perry.
Chapters 70 – Chapter 78: Trivia Night
The “Audrey and Elvis” Trivia Night arrives.
On that very night, Josh tells Celeste that it is his brother Max – and not Jane’s Ziggy – who is bullying the other children.
And Celeste realizes that Max too is confusing love and violence, mimicking the behavior of his father. There’s no way back: Celeste has no other option but to leave Perry. Perry, in the meantime, finds out about Celeste’s secret apartment.
When the two – visibly shaken – arrive at Trivia Night, Jane sees Perry and recognizes him as the man who had raped her.
Perry doesn’t deny this: so as to avoid trouble for himself, he admits to having used his cousin’s name on several occasions such as the one described by Jane.
And he shows no remorse for it. Instead, in the argument which follows, he hits Celeste.
Enraged and out of nowhere, Bonnie – Madeline’s ex-husband Nathan’s new wife – pushes Perry from the balcony.
And now you know: he is the parent who dies in Chapter 1.
Big Little Lies Epilogue
Madeline soon learns the real cause of Bonnie’s actions: she had an abusive father; the argument simply brought to her mind unwanted and repressed memories.
Everyone who has witnessed the event decides to lie in her favor. Everybody thinks that she doesn’t deserve to suffer for killing a man like Perry.
However, Bonnie turns herself in. Fortunately, she is merely sentenced to two hundred hours of community service.
A year later, Celeste works at a family law firm. She has set a trust fund for Ziggy and found a new meaning in her life. Namely: to share her story.
At a public event, she introduces it with five straightforward words:
This can happen to anyone.
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“Big Little Lies Book Summary Quotes”They say it's good to let your grudges go, but I don't know, I'm quite fond of my grudge. I tend it like a little pet. Click To Tweet All conflict can be traced back to someone’s feelings getting hurt, don’t you think? Click To Tweet Reading a novel was like returning to a once-beloved holiday destination. Click To Tweet Those we love don’t go away, they sit beside us every day. Click To Tweet Nothing and nobody could aggravate you the way your child could aggravate you. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
Liane Moriarty knows how to tell a story. Especially if it is one about suburbias, secrets, and sex.
And a hurting woman.
This novel – just like The Husband’s Secret – has three.
And they are all carefully and compassionately portrayed, their lives intertwined within a disturbing story told with a lot of style and humor (yes, humor!)
Funny and scary, Big Little Lies is a hell of a good book.
And no – those are not our words.
They are Stephen King’s.