Big Little Lies: a Review of a Novel That Surprised Me

I don’t think that I am alone when I say that I go through phases with my reading.

Here are some of the phases I have gone through:

  • reading books by the same author one after the other (I’ve done this with Agatha Christie, J.K. Rowling, and Yves Beauchemin);
  • reading classics (I’ve just gone through this kind of phase that started with 1984 and ended with Pride and Prejudice);
  • reading only in French for a while, or only in English;
  • treating myself to chick-lit novels (yes, I do admit to indulging in chick-lit occasionally);
  • reading new, best-seller releases.

I have gone through a phase of reading new, best-seller releases earlier in the year. It was needed, as I had been going through a reading rut (another phase, but an awful, unpleasant one!) and the best way to get out of such a rut is to read easier books. This is where fast-paced funny, clever and biting novels come in.

The phase started with the novel Big Little Lies (2014) by Liane Moriarty. I had a hard time getting into the reading at first but I credit that to the reading rut I was trying to overcome. The novel turned out to be more gripping than I imagined it to be.

I don’t know if that was the author’s purpose in writing and publishing this novel, but I found the book cover to be extremely misguiding.

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The book cover, obviously a representation of shattered hope and innocence, gives the reader the impression that the novel will be romanticized and superficial. (That’s at least the impression that I had.) The cover definitely does not look like a precursor to a story about abusive relationships and dysfunction, that ends in murder. Both the cover and the title gave me the impression that the story was going to be about romantic relationships, parent-child conflicts, and innocuous drama. While all of those things were indeed part of the story, the latter consisted of so much more than that.

So many issues arise in this novel: there’s definitely something for everyone to take away and to relate to. The novel didn’t turn out to be what I thought it was going to be, and that was the best thing about it. I wanted a fun, easy read to get myself out of my reading rut. What I actually got was a fun, easy read that did get me out of my reading rut, while simultaneously bringing me on a ride of multiple twists and turns. It was a darker ride than I’d initially expected, as I already mentioned, but I loved every second of it. The book had themes of appearance, perception, and perfection, and the meaning of them in a real-life context. I could easily imagine living in situations similar to the ones represented in the novel, which made the whole experience more relatable.

I also want to discuss the murder that occurs at the end of the book, without giving too much away: it was an extremely plausible murder, which is often very hard to achieve at the end of a novel, after the reader gets to know all the characters, the context and after the reader gets accustomed to the book’s tone. The tone of the novel, by the way, was impeccable. It was a flawless mixture of cleverness, simplicity, humor, and mystery.

I also appreciated the hint of satire present both in the tone and the plot. The contrast in lifestyle of the elementary school children’s mothers served as a mockery of the pressure exerted by society on mothers and parents in general to be perfect, to do everything right, to work, but not too much. None of the mothers were “perfect” which proves that the author’s aim was to represent the impossibility of attaining perfection and that the pursuit of the latter is, simply put, a waste of time.

I really liked the novel and the deep themes entrenched in it.

I love it when books surprise me.

 

 

 

 

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