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It has never crossed her mind that sending your child to school would be like going back to school yourself.

Big Little Lies takes place in a pretty coastal town near Sidney, among a small community of parents who have their children in the same kindergarten class, in a public school by the sea. People are nice to each other and well-behaved, they have coffees and cupcakes at “Blue Blues”, they run or walk on the beach. The mothers either stay at home or work part-time, sometimes they even have a career. The fathers bond at social events talking about golf…

On trivia night, a murder occurs on the school grounds. We don’t know who was killed, and who did the deed. Liane Moriarty narrates the months leading to the fateful event, through the point of view of several characters, as well as from snippets from police reports and gossips. It all starts with a new single mum, Jane, whose son has been accused of bullying by a little girl from his class…

The characters are well drawn, flawed, sometimes hilarious, and mostly sympathetic: Renata, the mother of a gifted child, one of the “blond bobs” who think they are in charge of the school, Jane, the insecure young mother with a difficult past, Celeste, the stunning and wealthy woman who hides a painful secret, and Madeline, the one who has to deal with heartbreak and jealousy as her elder daughter announces she prefers to live with her father and his new wife, a vegetarian yogini. The men, though secondary characters, are also represented in their suburban diversity: Ed, the nice second husband supportive of his wife even when she dwells too much on her ex-husband and his second wife, Tom, the barista whom Jane feels comfortable with because he’s gay, or Nathan, the rich, handsome husband with a darker side to his personality…

Big Little Lies is a delightful mystery that has a few twists up its sleeve, doubled with a convincing and hilarious character study. The hysteria of parents who are quick to point the finger and willing to exclude another kid on say-so to “protect” their precious offspring would be funny if I didn’t know for a fact that it happens in real life… Liane Moriarty has done a fine job observing people.

This novel reminded me a little bit of The Deaths, by Mark Lawson. In both cases we know from the start there is a victim but we don’t know who, and both are social satires where ugly secrets are hidden beneath the perfect surface. In Big Little Lies however, the characters are more endearing, especially Madeline and Jane. Big Little Lies is a very entertaining page-turner!