I approached Little Lies with trepidation, I really enjoyed The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot , despite the subject matter in each book being entirely different. but would this long anticipated book match up to my expectations? In a word: yes, so I’m afraid this is going to be another gushing review.
Liane Moriarty creates the most believable of characters even if those characters and these characters are built up in layers through their interactions and the views of other observers; this is my favourite type of story-telling.
The story is set around Pirriwee Public School and in particular its fund-raising Trivia Night where someone is dead, but who is left unsaid. Mrs Ponder a kindly retired lady living close by heard the screams that ripped through the night air. Not only is the perpetrator a secret, we don’t know who died either so the mystery is two-fold. As those attending start to recount the months leading up to The Trivia Night to both journalists and police the finger is pointed squarely back to the kindergarten orientation day. Yes, you read that right the trail leads back to something that happened to poor five-year old Amabella, an assault where the aggressor was another five-year old.
This story is about bullies, but not you’ll be relieved to hear just about small children hitting each other; this book explores the degrees the adults in this book exert their power over each other. After the opening chapter where the scene is set the author takes us back to the orientation day, using the excerpts from the interviews and the narrative from the main protagonists: Jane, the single mother, Madeline who is loud and says what she thinks and the very beautiful but distracted Celeste. Unfortunately the group of middle-class women that run the PTA are instantly recognisable to anyone who has stepped into a school. Pretentious, competitive and bitchy is how I’d sum them up. But Liane Moriarty manages uses her witty dialogue to undermine them without being quite so direct:
Renata and Harper attended the same weekly Support Group for parents of gifted children. Madeline imagined them all sitting in a circle wringing their hands while their eyes shone with secret pride.
They mean very, very well. They’re like, hmm, what are they like? They are like Mum Prefects. They feel very strongly about their roles as school mums. It’s like their religion. They’re fundamentalist mothers.
The pace of the plot is addictive managed by lots of revelations as the veneer of the characters are stripped back to reveal more complexity than initially imagined. This is the second book this week where I have stayed up late to find out what happened next as I read just one more chapter!
Despite the children being the background to the plot their characters are distinct, this is not some amalgamation of a random children used for cute effect, they behave randomly as real children do including the teenage Alice who is Madeline’s eldest daughter.
“I can’t even speak now!” Alice’s whole body trembled “I can’t even be myself in my own home! I can’t relax!” Madeline was reminded of Alice’s first ever tantrum, when she was nearly three and Madeline had been thinking that she was never going to have a tantrum, and it was all due to her good parenting.
Despite giving the previous books I have read by this author 5*’s this book surpasses them both and will be a book I recommend to everyone this summer as it has the right mix of the good read elements: drama, mystery, issues, characters and plot and no, I didn’t guess the ending, in fact I was way off!
I’d like to thank the publishers Penguin UK for allowing me to review a copy of this book ahead of the publication date of 31 July 2014.