I'm not particularly overjoyed by the cover. I'm not a fan of film tie in covers, mainly because they often feature images of the characters. For me, part of the enjoyment of reading a book is having the writer describe the characters, allowing me to form an image in my mind of what they might look like. The cover of this book spoilt it a little for me as I knew the three people on the cover had to be the main three characters, Madeline, Celeste and Jane. Throughout the whole book I couldn't help but see them as Reece Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley and that really grated on me.
What's it about? Someone is dead. We don't know who and we don't know how - we just know that it happened on trivia night. The book starts off with old Mrs Ponder who lives opposite school. She hears the commotion outside on trivia night, sees fathers fighting, mothers screaming and wonders what on earth is going on? We then cut to six months before the fateful Trivia night and this is where we begin to see the story unfold.
It is the first day of school and Jane, newcomer to the area and single mother to Ziggy finds herself caught up in a row about bullying when her son is accused of hurting another child in the classroom. Jane doesn't believe it. Ziggy wouldn't do that, would he?
Madeline rushes to Jane and Ziggys defence knowing that by doing so she risks alienating herself from the pack. Madeline is the mother of two young children and a teenage daughter from a previous relationship. Madeline is already struggling with the feelings of hurt and betrayal after her daughter grows increasingly distant, choosing to spend more time with her perfect stepmother and her father who abandoned her as a baby. What difference will one one more drama make?
Then there's the beautiful Celeste, mother of twin boys. She lives in a perfect house, with a perfect view and a perfect husband and she never wants for anything. At least that's what she wants you to believe. Celeste is good at keeping secrets. Celeste is already firm friends with Madeline so she joins Madeline in her quest to take Jane and Ziggy under her wing.
To begin with it seems this book is about playground politics, bullying and social status - and that's just the parents. But this book is about so much more than petty preschool parents. This is a book about domestic violence, rape, motherhood- the good the bad and the ugly, the dangers of the Internet, friendship and the big little lies we tell ourselves when the truth seems too much to bear.
At first I thought it was too much, overdramatic- too many people with too many problems. But then I took a look around. I have on many occasions put on a brave face, smiled brightly and insisted that everything was totally fine when in fact it was anything but. My friends, family, next door neighbour, they all go through their own personal shit but wave across the garden fence like everythings hunky dory. And how would I know any different? I wouldn't. Not unless I asked the right question at the right time and they trusted me enough to open up. I realised that it only feels over dramatic because I am getting to hear about everyones troubles. In real life those same troubles exist, only I don't always get to know about it.
The domestic violence storyline definitely gave me some food for thought. At what point do you say enough is enough? It's not always as clear cut as you might think.
That said, at no point does this book feel depressing. Far from it. Liane Moriarty manages to place humour where you thought there could be none. I found that I could relate to all three main characters in some way. Especially Madeline. God I love that woman. She reminded me so much of myself. I love how honest and real she is, even if she is a touch feisty at times.
"Madeline" said Ed calmly.
Their arguments always went like this. The angrier Madeline got, the freakishly calmer Ed became, until he reached a point where he sounded like a hostage negotiator dealing with a lunatic and a ticking time bomb. It was infuriating.
I mean come on, who can not relate to this? It's the story of my life!
I loved Liane Moriartys use of unreliable narrators in the snippets of police interviews which kept me guessing who died and 'who dunnit' all the way through. It was amusing to see how eyewitness accounts of the same event varied massively depending on who was telling it. I changed my mind many times and still didn't guess right in the end. (About half way through the book I gave Mr B an overview of the story so far and he called it straight away- clever clogs!)
The chapters are dangerously short. It would be past midnight, I'd have work in the morning, one eye would already be shut, the other struggling to focus but still, I'd have to read just one more wonderfully juicy (but short so I'll sleep after this one) chapter.. and one more, and just this last one ...Oh Calamity!
Liane Moriarty ties up all the loose ends neatly. I was satisfied with the outcome and was pleased to see that just like in the real world, when it really matters, people can put aside their differences and stand together.
I'm hooked... I'll defintitely be seeking out more books by this extremely talented author. If you haven't read this book and would like to you can find it over here