Hii! I have literally just this second finished this book, so thought i would write my ‘review’ now, as i had finished such an amazing book the other week, but ended up leaving writing about it for a few days and my mind had gone completely blank. So, I’ve figured if ever i need to write a review i need to do it straight away.
Jane hasn’t lived anywhere for longer than six months since her son was born five years ago. She keeps moving in an attempt to escape her past. Now the idyllic coastal town of Pirriwee has pulled her to its shores and Jane feels as if she finally belongs. She finds friends in the feisty Madeline and the incredibly beautiful Celeste, two women with seemingly perfect lives – and their own secrets.
But at the start of a new term, an incident involving the children of all three women occurs in the playground, causing a rift between them and the other parents. Minor at first but escalating fast, until the whispers and rumours become vicious and spiteful, and the truth blurs into lies.
It was always going to end in tears, but no one thought it would end in murder…
Oh. My. God. This was one of those books where i sat down with it and the time just flew past, so much so that i managed to finish it within three days (which, when you enter kids into the equation is really bloody quick).
So the story was told from Jane’s, Madeline’s and Celeste’s point of views, and then at the start and end of many chapters you had snippets of parents and teachers ‘statements’ when they were talking to a reporter after the incident at the end.
So, Jane is a single mother of Ziggy and on a whim she moves to Pirriwee and enrolls her son into kindergarten at Piriwee public. On her way she finds Madeline on the street with a hurt foot and they pretty much instantly become friends. At the end of orientation day, a little girl has been ‘strangled’ by another child and says that it was Ziggy that did it. Of course that leads to the ‘bullied’ child’s mother basically being a right bitch, and she starts a petition to get him kicked out of the school. Further along in the story you find out how Jane has ended up a single parent and why she is like she is.
Madeline really is feisty and i quite loved her all the way through. She has three kids and a husband, one of which is from a previous relationship with a man who not only ran away from responsibility when she was born, but is now living in the same town, with a new wife, and a daughter that he is actually involved with. So, his new wife Bonnie, is pretty much a ‘hippie’, is into yoga and is all niceness, much to Madeline’s dislike.
Celeste is a character i related to and routed for the whole way through. She is married to a very rich man, has twin boys and is also a victim of domestic violence, although she doesn’t see herself as such until further along in the story. She is a very quite character who daydreams a lot and would rather listen and get along with life.
If you’ve not read this book before, i suggest you do because it will have you hooked from the beginning! Liane Moriarty has become one of my favourite authors and i just love how she can write novels that will bring out all the emotions in you. It might be that i get too into books, but it takes a lot for me to actually invest emotions in them unless it’s a good one.
Also, this book has been made into a series, which i am going to start watching asap just to see if it is as good as the book (which i really do hope it is).
I wanted to do the ‘book club questions’ for some other reviews and just totally forgot, so i hope this is something that will stick…..
Questions for discussion!
1 – While reading the novel, did you empathise more with Madeline, Celeste or Jane? Which (if any) of the characters got what they truly deserved in the end?
I think i empathised with them all on different levels. More so Celeste as she was going through domestic abuse which is something i have gone through and i was super emotionally invested in her. And with Jane, she was the quite ‘new girl’ who is unsure of a lot of things and is definitely a worrier.
Obviously Perry got what he deserved (in a way) in the end, mainly because he was a prick and he pissed me off a lot. Celeste got her freedom and so did Jane in a way. From the start of the book and what happened, i definitely think everyone got the ending they deserved.
2 – Do you think Madeline is the kind of person who deliberately looks for a fight? Does her loyalty to her friends make her a worse person to everyone else?
I don’t think she does it deliberately, just unknowingly. She stands up for what she thinks is right and is always loyal to her friends even if that puts her in a bad light in other peoples eyes.
3 – Bullying is the key theme in the novel, from schoolyard conflict and parents behaving badly to displays of domestic violence in all its incarnations. What do you think the author is trying to say about private and public bullying? Is one worse than the other?
I think the author wanted to raise awareness for definite and that there should be certain ways to handle things. For instance with Ziggy getting the blame for the bullying, Amabella’s mum basically went on a witch hunt when it wasn’t him at all, and that in a form of itself is bullying. I don’t think either is worse than the other, all forms of bullying is bad however you look at it.. I think that public bullying is a lot easier to spot and therefore ‘deal’ with than private bullying though.
4 – ‘[Madeline] didn’t want to admit, even to herself, just how much the aging of her face really did genuinely depress her. She wanted to be above such superficial concerns.’ How important is age and body image to the female characters in the novel? Do you think their attitudes accurately represent how women feel about their appearances?
With Madeline it was all about aging, but i think that mostly coming down to her ex marrying a younger woman, even if she doesn’t openly admit that. With Jane and her looks, she used to be curvier when she was younger and had the horrible experience when ‘Saxon’ assaulted her and called her fat and ugly, so she developed a problem with food and not wanting to be that person anymore. Appearances is something that is quite touchy, you get a great deal that love how they look (if you’re one of them i love you), then there are people like me that have had some form of bullying or even just a comment said or seeing things on tv / in magazines, that gives us this image of how we think we should actually look, be that our whole appearance, just our faces or just our bodies, and we end up not liking the way we look.
So, yes, for a lot of women it’s accurately represented i think.
5 – When Ziggy has to do his family tree, Madeline asks: ‘Why try to slot fractured families into neat little boxes in this day and age?’ Discuss the problems that can exist today in modern families that weren’t relevant when you were a child.
6 – When Jane recounts what happened the night she got pregnant, she focuses on what the man said rather than on what he did. Why does Jane feel more violated by two words – fat and ugly – than by the actual assault? What are the different ways in which physical and verbal violence impacts the characters in the novel?
I think that she probably thought that if she wasn’t ‘fat and ugly’ then the assault wouldn’t of happened, so therefore focused on that more than what actually happened.
With Jane, it was more the verbal that impacted her the most, after the assault it had left her fractured and for those five years she was evidently more wary of her size and it impacted on her ability to eat… Also, she chews gum a lot, and that habit came from the assault as well.
With Celeste, it’s a complicated kettle of fish, she’s turned into a nervous wreck who is always second guessing everything, from when Perry will go in a ‘mood’ and next attack her, to wondering if it’s actually all her fault each time.
7 – The power of secrets is a key theme throughout the book. Jane remembers: ‘She hadn’t told anyone. She’d swallowed it whole and pretended it meant nothing, and therefore it had come to mean everything.’ Do you think this is a universal truth, that the more you keep something secret, the more power it takes on?
I definitely believe in ‘a secret shared is a secret halved’, when you keep something to yourself, it’s going to take over, you’ll keep thinking about it, you’ll wonder whether it was right or wrong.. But i suppose at the same time, if you keep something secret, you can pretend its not real.
8 – How do you think Celeste was able to hide Perry’s abuse for so long from her friends and peers? Were you surprised to discover Max had seen and understood what was happening? In what ways are children more aware than adults, and when do you think this changes?
As I have been through this myself, i know that it is actually very easy to hide something like this. You feel ashamed. so therefore you’ll do all that’s in your power to hide it. As Perry never hit her where someone could see, it was easy for her to hide any bruises, and with her jumpiness etc people just thought that was her as a person and had no reason to suspect anything else.
I wasn’t overly surprised that Max had seen and heard. Though with him being 5 i don’t particularly think he understood as such, i think that he thought that was what was normal, as he displayed himself in bullying girls at school. Children are always eager to learn and understand the world, so they become aware of everything even if you don’t think it. And i’m not actually sure when this actually changes.
9 – Did you enjoy the inclusion of the interview snippets to the reporter? Why do you think the author used this devise and what was its impact on you as a reader?
I actually liked them, it had you guessing throughout what would happen and who would get murdered at the end, though looking back after finishing the book actually gave you no clue whatsoever as to who and what would happen. I reckon they were there to keep you hooked.
10 – Were you surprised when the women who ostensibly didn’t like each other ultimately ended up coming together to help one another out? Was their decision justified – can it ever be right to do the ‘wrong’ thing? Do you think a group of men would have acted in the same way?
I was slightly surprised, especially when Madeline actually sided with Bonnie, which i never thought would happen, but i loved that they all put their differences aside to be able to come together to help not just Bonnie but also Celeste and Jane. I can’t say it’s totally justified but at the same time i think it would’ve been something that i definitely would do to help a friend out in that certain situation. Also, i suppose at the end it was a righted in a way when Bonnie admitted that she did it. As for men acting in the same way, I’m not too sure, like, i can’t say they definitely would or wouldn’t, it would all depend on their characters.
Have you read ‘Big little lies’?? Or watched the tv series?? If so i would love to hear your thoughts.