It is the start of school at Pirriwee Public. It is exciting for the children and it is a completely new world for some of the parents. Who is who? Who is friends with whom? Which children get on? Which stand out? Do the parents have time to help out or are they working? Isn’t it sad for children to be brought up by a nanny instead of their mother? And who is that young woman with the little boy? They must be new to Pirriwee.
The gossip goes round with the parents…
Bonnie: It was all just a terrible misunderstanding. People’s feelings got hurt and then everything just spiralled out of control. The way it does. All conflict can be traced back to someone’s feelings getting hurt, don’t you think? Divorce. World war. Legal action. Well, maybe not every legal action. Can I offer you a herbal tea?
Stu: I’ll tell you exactly why it happened. Women don’t let things go. Not saying the blokes don’t share part of the blame. But if the girls hadn’t got their knickers in a knot…
Miss Barnes: Helicopter parents. Before I started at Pirriwee Public, I thought it was an exaggeration, this thing about parents being overly involved with their kids.
Carol: I blame the Erotic Book Club. But that’s just me.
Harper: I’ll tell you what started it. The incident at the kindergarten orientation day.
Melissa: You know what I think got everyone all hot and bothered? The head lice. Oh my gosh, don’t get me started on the head lice.
Detective Sergeant Adrian Quinlan: Let me be clear. This is not a circus. This is a murder investigation.
Big Little Lies covers all sorts of family drama and everyday problems of bringing up children, but the writing is witty, and funny, and the statements of the minor characters to the detective at the end of each chapter will certainly make you laugh. It is incredible how Liane Moriaty can portray those characters and their personalities so simply and accurately in these short statements.
Jane, Madeleine and Celeste are the three main characters of the story.
Young mother Jane is new in Pirriwee and her son Ziggy is starting kindergarten. She is desperate to find the drunken one-night-stand six years ago, Ziggy’s father. She has doubts about what her son may have inherited from him; even more so after that first day of kindergarten. “It had never crossed her mind that sending your child to school would be like going back to school yourself.”
Madeleine is passionate and witty and at the centre of the Pirriwee parents’ community. But those parents now also involve yogi-calm and alternative Bonnie, her ex-husband’s new wife. They have a daughter the same age as her little Chloe and not only is seeing them every day a challenge, but Madeleine’s older daughter seems more and more drawn towards her stepmother.
Celeste seems to have it all. She is tall, so beautiful people turn around to look at her when she walks past, married to successful Perry, and mother of two boys. Together with her husband, they rule the school and the community and somehow they seem to manage their rowdy, unruly twins. But Celeste knows that it is never as neat and happy as is looks from the outside.
Between school scandals, gossip and helicopter parents, Madeleine and Celeste grow closer to Jane, who for the first time finds other people, other parents, to talk to; friends.
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.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
First published 2014