If you know and love the author Liane Moriarty, you’ll be pleased to hear she’s nailed it yet again. I recently finished her latest book, Big Little Lies, and it’s a brilliant story about parents behaving badly. It’s also the funniest book about murder and domestic abuse you’ll ever read.
Moriarty has a knack for creating characters who are so believable they could easily be people you know at the school gates: there’s Madeline, a force to be reckoned with; the beautiful Celeste; and Jane, who’s young, single and struggling to make ends meet. Then we meet the hot-shot mums with high-powered jobs; the yogi mum; and the “Blond Bobs” – the ‘Mum prefects’ who rule the school like it’s their religion.
What all these women have in common is that they drive truck-like cars, and take their mothering very seriously: “Their frantic little faces. Their busy little bottoms strutting into the school in their tight gym gear … Eyes fixed on the mobile phones held in the palms of their hands like compasses.”
The cover art for the book (called Little Lies in the UK) depicts a large, multicoloured lollipop exploding into a thousand pieces, and it illustrates perfectly how the sugar-coated lies that people hide behind are smashed into smithereens.
The story centres around Pirriwee Public, a beautiful little beachside primary school where children are taught that ‘sharing is caring.’ So how has the annual School Trivia Night ended in a full-blown riot? Sirens are wailing. People are screaming. The principal is mortified. And one parent is dead.
But who? And who was responsible for this terrible deed?
The book then jumps back six months and cuts back and forth between the characters, revealing complex family problems and putting friendships and marriage under the microscope. Written with impeccable comic timing, the narrative is peppered with parents’ voices commenting cryptically on the root cause of the ‘tragedy’: the French nanny? An erotic book club? Head lice?
Considering everything that is tackled in this book (bullying, domestic violence, date rape, dealing with ex-husbands and more), the plot should not have worked as well as it does. Moriarty pulls it off brilliantly, and I finished the novel wishing I could instantly forget it so I could immediately read about the misbehaving inhabitants of Pirriwee all over again.