After a forced sabbatical of two months from reading, I finally read ‘Big Little Lies’ by Liane Moriarty. To say that I loved the book is an understatement. It was one of the best books I read recently. Though it is not as classy as say ‘Homegoing‘ or ‘Em and the Big Hoom‘, it is a book which has got its priorities right. I have seen the now popular HBO series of the same name and also read some reviews of the book. Some reviewers have even dismissed this as ‘chicklit’. I am not sure since when did murder mysteries and domestic abuse become chicklit.
The author has in a light manner touched upon some very serious topics. Big Little Lies highlights domestic violence, deceptions, the fake world of Facebook. The Indian politicians should watch this series to understand ‘marital rape’ which they are in denial in India as we they claim ‘it is against our culture’. At the end of the book, Celeste sums it up nicely when she says. ‘It can happen to anyone’. The thing that disturbed me more was the ordinariness of it all. It is all written in a matter of fact way with no flowery language or sensationalism.
The book follows the lives of three women (mostly in their late 30s and early 40s). The ladies – Madeleine Mackenzie is really the soul of the book. She is the person who is ready to get involved in everybody’s business with a heightened sense of right and wrong similar to the character ‘Rajni’ played by Priya Tendulkar in a TV serial long ago. Jane is a 24 year old single mother to her son Ziggy who was born as a result of rape. And last, is Celeste White who is an ex-lawyer, mother of twin boys Max and Josh and wife to the extremely rich, successful and besotted Perry White.
Everyone looks at Celeste as this ethereal beautiful goddess who is living a life they all want to live. A loving husband who showers her with flowers, exquisite jewellery, unlimited money, adorable children and a catalogue home that looks out into the ocean. Perry is also a Facebook Junkie and loves to post their fabulous pictures on FB. It is about their exclusive outings, vacations, family pictures, ocean background and all. They seem to be living a dream life.
But there is a problem. Because Perry also hits Celeste. But never in front of anyone. Immediately after an episode, he is even more loving. It makes Celeste feel ungrateful that she minds Perry hitting her. She has the perfect life. Why should she bother about a beating or two? Every time Perry hits her, she makes up her mind to leave him. Only to reverse her decision as Perry showers her with love and gifts and Celeste feels things will work out. Celeste constantly wrestles in her mind about the positives and negatives of leaving Perry, her decision to stay or leave, even her denial that a problem exists.
Madeleine is everybody’s best friend till they rub her the wrong way, then she is your best enemy. She binds all the characters together as she takes Jane under her wing. As the book says, she practically becomes an elder sister to Jane. But her issues are the teenaged Abigail, her ex-husband Nathan and his current wife Bonnie. Madeleine is riled every time she sees them especially since Bonnie seems to be a perfect woman. What’s worse is even Abigail feels so and moves out of the house to live with her father. Abigail is as stubborn as we know how our own teenaged children are with their own weird ideas.
Jane is a young single mother, newly moved into Pirriwee with her own demons to kill. She was abused and raped as a 19 year old. But, she has a beautiful son out of the terrible encounter. Ever since the day she was attacked she is a different person. She is quiet, brooding, worried and seem to be running away from it all as she keeps moving houses and wants to stay away from her own family.
The book begins with the accidental death of murder of someone. It is not mentioned as to who has died. Till about 50 pages before it ends, the author doesn’t reveal who has died and if it is an accident or a murder. Over the pages, the book builds up beautifully with the characters and lives of the women till each layer is revealed one by one. By the end of the book, the entire jigsaw is in place and you want to read it again to look for clues you might have missed earlier. It is a great read.
I also saw the Big Little Lies series. Though the main plot is the same, they have added many more twists and turns with Madeleine having an extra-marital affair, some tender scenes between her and Abigail, Jane’s weirdness highlighted with a gun she keeps under her pillow, Celeste taking on a brief law and order issue and wanting to get back to work again. In the series they also show Perry and Celeste visiting a counselor. In the book, they visit a counselor but separately, they are not even the same. Trivia night in the book and the series is different except that all dress up as Elvis and Audrey Hepburn.
Read the book, and watch the 6-episode series. Both are excellent.