Monthly Archives: June 2015

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

A friend lent me this – I have previously read What Alice Forgot (which I didn’t mind) so thought I would give this one a go.

Here is the blurb …

‘I guess it started with the mothers.’
‘It was all just a terrible misunderstanding.’
‘I’ll tell you exactly why it happened.’

Pirriwee Public’s annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. One parent is dead. Was it murder, a tragic accident…or something else entirely?
Big Little Lies is a funny, heartbreaking, challenging story of ex-husbands and second wives, new friendships, old betrayals and schoolyard politics.
No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Liane Moriarty turns her unique gaze on the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves every day and what really goes on behind closed suburban doors.
Let me be clear. This is not a circus. This is a murder investigation.

I have children at primary school – the school in the novel reminded me so much of my school. The blonde bobs organising everything, the politics of party invitations, even the boozy trivia night (although we call it a quiz night and no one has been murdered yet).

This is an entertaining, funny story which tackles a couple of serious issues and is fun to read. I spent a lot of time identifying the various school mums with people from my school – definitely worth reading if you have children attending school. Who would want to be the mum who loses Harry the Hippo and replaces him with something ‘cheap and nasty’?

More reviews …

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Wish You Were Here – Stewart O’Nan

Wish You Were Here - Stewart O'Nan

Wish You Were Here – Stewart O’Nan

I have been keen to read anything by Stewart O’Nan since I read about him here. I eventually found a copy of Wish You Were Here at the library – none of my local book stores stocked any of his works. I’m glad I went to the trouble of tracking one down though because I really enjoyed it.

Here’s the blurb …

Award-winning writer Stewart O’Nan has been acclaimed by critics as one of the most accomplished novelists writing today. Now comes his finest and most complete novel to date. A year after the death of her husband, Henry, Emily Maxwell gathers her family by Lake Chautauqua in western New York for what will be a last vacation at their summer cottage. Joining is her sister-in-law, who silently mourns the sale of the lake house, and a long-lost love. Emily’s firebrand daughter, a recovering alcoholic recently separated from her husband, brings her children from Detroit. Emily’s son, who has quit his job and mortgaged his future to pursue his art, comes accompanied by his children and his wife, who is secretly heartened to be visiting the house for the last time. Memories of past summers resurface, old rivalries flare up, and love is rekindled and born anew, resulting in a timeless novel drawn, as the best writing often is, from the ebbs and flow of daily life.

This is a slow moving novel – it is set over a week with a section per day. For each day we shift between view points of different characters. I have to say I didn’t particularly like any of the characters – even when the story was from their point of view. There is not a lot of plot to this story about a family spending one last week together in their lake house before it is sold. It is about the relationships, familial expectations, rivalries and obligations. The characterisations are brilliant – particularly Emily, Lise, Sarah and Ella. Emily is a difficult woman. Overly critical (or does she just have high expectations?), focussed (one might even say obsessed) by what she wants – no ants in the letter box, the list of things everyone wants from the house, the girl from the petrol station etc. Meg and Ken (Emily’s children) avoid telling her significant events in their lives – Ken’s job, Meg’s divorce and time in rehab. Lise (Ken’s wife) dislikes Emily and is jealous of the time Ken spends with Meg and with his camera. She feels that something has gone awry between them, but doesn’t know what or how to fix it. Sarah is Meg’s beautiful daughter. She bears the brunt of Meg’s rage. And Ella who has a crush on Sarah worries that she might be a lesbian.

By the end not much is resolved – the house will be sold – but are things ever resolved in families?

Another review …


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Greenbanks – Dorothy Whipple

Greenbanks - Dorothy Whipple

Greenbanks – Dorothy Whipple

I have been painfully making my way through Not Wisely, but too Well by Rhoda Broughton (there will be a review) and I needed something less joyless. I have read other Whipple novels – like this one or this one – and enjoyed them all plus as it has been a while since I had ordered any books from Persephone, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Here is the bit on the inside cover…

‘It is a preposterous play’ said Ambrose. ‘I am ashamed to be present at such a play with my wife.’

‘Oh, don’t worry about me,’ said Letty. ‘I know all of this and more.’

‘You know nothing,’ said Ambrose severely. ‘That’s the only redeeming feature of your appalling views. Ignorance. You’ve lived a sheltered life, thank goodness. But as a wife and a mother, you ought to uphold a strict moral standard whether you understand why or not.’

‘Not at a play! Not at a play!’ broke in Letty wildly.

She turned from him and pretended to be absorbed by watching the attendant with the tray of ices, but really she was saying to herself: ‘Oh, I’m tired of all you say. I’m tired even before you begin …’

Ambrose went on talking, but she did not listen. He gave her, more and more frequently, the same flat exhausted feeling she had when she tried to carry a mattress downstairs unaided.

This novel was beautifully written – it is about families, marriages, the choices we make (and living with those choices), the limited choices of a ‘good women’,  parent/child relationships and our expectations. Louisa, the family matriarch, just wants everyone to be happy – from her son Charles – feckless, but charming. her unhappily married daughters (see it’s all about our choices), her companion Kate to her grand daughter Rachel – who might be the one to find happiness. It is a quite novel – lots of knitting and reading in the sitting room, but none the less full of desperation, despair. resentment, boredom and occasional moments of quite happiness.

It is worth reading for the beauty of the prose, the ordinary made extraordinary and for a portrayal of joyless unsuitable marriages (despite appearing to be successful from a worldly point of view).

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