And now for something a little different …
Big Little Lies is a parental murder mystery crossed with a lampooning beach read. With a faster pace on the former front and a bit more character depth on the latter, it would have been exquisite. As is, I found myself periodically disinterested and wanting more clarity as to how much Liane Moriarty intended to sympathetically reflect modern parenthood as well as satirize it. Was I supposed to be laughing at these moms or feeling for them? Both? Sometimes it felt too heavy-handed in one direction (maudlin), and sometimes the other (derisive).
That said, Moriarty often did hit the sweet spot, deliciously skewering the “Mommy Wars”: “‘Of course, I don’t have a problem per se with working mothers, I just wonder why they bothered having children in the first place.’” Think Desperate Housewives when it premiered.
Also to her credit, the story got fairly gripping near the end, and passages like the following left me utterly delighted:
“Madeline thrived on conflict and was never happier than when she was outraged.”
“‘Where’s Jackie today, Jonathan?’” asked Gabrielle. The mothers were all mildly obsessed with Jonathan’s wife, ever since she’d been interviewed on the business segment of the evening news a few nights back, sounding terrifyingly precise and clever about a corporate takeover and putting the journalist in his place. Also, Jonathan was very good-looking in a George Clooney–esque way, so constant references to his wife were necessary to show that they hadn’t noticed this and weren’t flirting with him.”
It all makes for a four-star book, and perfect screenplay fodder.