big little lies (the mini series AND the novel); a review

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Book Photography by Kelly Furgal Toye. Click here for my Bookstagram!

Book 7 of 2017

I hadn’t heard of Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty until I caught wind of the mini-series-in-the-making, produced by Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman. After looking the novel up, I knew needed to read before I inevitably watched the HBO show.

The novel is set in Australia, and immediately teases of an accident that takes place during a local elementary school’s trivia night for parents of the students. Readers are quickly introduced to multiple characters with featured excerpts from their police station interviews, post-death. The reader doesn’t know who dies, but we do know that the police are treating the death as a murder investigation. Soon thereafter, three female protagonists are introduced. They’re beautifully flawed women with their own secrets and issues: Madeline, Celeste, and Jane.

Madeline is a part-time working mom of three, her younger two children stemming from her current marriage. She has a teenage daughter who fawns over her father and stepmother and butts heads with Madeline. Complicated, bull-headed and feisty are three characteristics I would use to describe Madeline; her character made me laugh a lot.

Celeste is an ex-lawyer whose husband is extremely wealthy and is constantly away for work. Celeste decided to leave her career to raise her twin sons. As we peer through the looking-glass, does Celeste really have the perfect life or is it all a facade?

Jane is a young woman who got pregnant unexpectedly and now has a sweet little boy. She moved into town just before her son, Ziggy, started school and she’s in search of answers….answers that she may regret searching for, depending on her actions.


The school year kicks off with all three women’s children starting school together, and the threesome form an unlikely friendship. On the first day, however, antagonist Renata Klein’s daughter accusing Ziggy of choking her on the school yard, and immediately a parental war ensues and alliances are formed. Things get nasty.

The novel does a great job at highlighting the ins and outs of a catty, wealthy neighborhood school (at least, it does in my imagination. I don’t have a child in school right now, but I hope the parents are a little more civil when my son goes to kindergarten). While the mystery element set the tone in the novel, the comic relief provided by Madeline all on her own, as well as the police interviews of the other parents associated with the school, was a welcomed element.

It took me a few chapters to really get into the novel, but by the last one hundred pages, I was on the edge of my seat. I had grown interested in so many of the characters in this story, and needed to find out who was killed, and how.




Book vs. Mini Series

There are many similarities between the book and the show. Some of the quotes are directly taken from the novel, and the actresses play each characters perfectly. There are added story lines in the television version and some of the secondary characters were given bigger roles for the show, and collectively, I think these elements added layers to the mystery and overall character development and growth. The character of Renata Klein, for example, is played by Laura Dern and she’s fabulous. Renata is cunning and brash, but we also catch glimpses of an occasional softness to her character. It made sense to give Dern’s character a bigger role than she holds in the book for the show’s story line additions, and to add an in-depth look into Renata’s life.

Another difference the mini series offered was that it takes place in Monterey, California. I can imagine that the scenery would be very similar if it was filmed in Australia, with the rolling waves and majestic coastlines.  The community of wealth is believable, as the show was filmed in Monterey, where mansions line each perfectly manicured street. I loved the views the show offered. The scenic shots of crashing whitecaps and sandy beaches were well-paired with the show’s phenomenal soundtrack.

Spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen the show ahead:

Lastly, I have to mention an added element to the show that I thought was creative and well-done:

Madeline’s infidelity. Ed (Madeline’s husband) was definitely a different character in the TV series than he was in the books, and I think that was on purpose. He was taken advantaged of more-so in the series, but was also a bit odd and a little creepy,while still managing to be endearing at times. I thought Madeline’s past affair added another complicated layer to the relationships in the series, tied in nicely with her daughter’s issues and how she could relate to her, and added yet another element to the mystery of who done it?


Did you like the book? How do you think the mini-series compared? Or did you just watch the mini series? Drop me a line, I would love to hear your thoughts!


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