Big Little Lies is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year, the reason it deserves a proper review is not only because how good the book was, but because the story contains messages about virtually all of the virtues of Objectivism.
Warning: Contains Spoilers
The story itself is a satirical black comedy told through the perspectives of 3 women: Jane Chapman, Madeline Mackenzie and Celeste Wright. We learn that there is a murder mystery from early on with interweaving statements of secondary characters by detectives, somehow these 3 women were invovled. The narratives rotate between the 3 women and the truth is slowly unraveled.
Jane is one of the best characters I’ve ever read in recent years. She is a single mother whose son Ziggy was accused of bullying another child Amabella at the orientation of Pirriwee Kingdergarten, Jane and Ziggy were ostracized throughout the rest of the book until the real bully was discovered. She is independent, despite dropping out of college, she managed to find a steady job to maintain support herself and Ziggy. She is clever and kind to everyone, but she suffered from low self esteem when she was raped at a one night stand with another man. Her reason for moving to Pirriwee was to find that man and let him “marvel at Ziggy”.
Madeline on the other hand is the opposite of Jane, She is a lot older (40) and has more kids drama to handle herself. She is fiercely protective of others, she’s loud, and she is not afraid to let her opinions known. She even loves to seek out fights for the sake of winning them. She has 3 children but she managed to take good care of them while working on a marketing job for local theatre. Despite her apparent confidence, she was frustrated that her daughter Abigail grew closer to her ex husband Nathan’s new wife Bonnie. Much of Madeline’s drama in the book revolved around Abigail being rebellious and her feud with Nathan and Bonnie. Abigail eventually decided to do something ridiculous that made her have a breakdown.
Celeste is the prettiest woman in town with twin boys and a handsome, rich husband. She is always preocuppied and she gets startled by little things, despite her beauty and intelligence, she also has very low confidence because her husband Perry beats her. She annoys me in the beginning because of how irrational she was to justify the abuse but she transformed herself to be a stronger woman in latter parts of the book.
I love the complexity of the themes, everything that was written had a meaning and were foreshadowing what was to come. It was also hilariously funny, there were so many times that I couldn’t stop myself from laughing so I had to pause momentarily. Moriarty managed to discuss taboo themes like domestic violence (both male and female), bullying, rape, infidelity and slavery; but she also was able to satirize more contemporary themes like helicopter parenting, single motherhood, fake news and social media.
So how does this book express the Objectivist virtues?
Honesty– As the title suggested, the story is about how the little lies that everyone makes can accumulate and have fatal consequences. Every character improved their situation by being honest. Jane’s honesty about her past allowed Madeline and Celeste to cope with her lack of self esteem; Celeste honesty allowed her to leave Perry and Madeline’s honesty mended her relationship with her daughter and her ex husband; Bonnie’s honesty closed the whole story.
Integrity- Everyone believed that Ziggy was not the school bully, despite a petition was going around to get him expelled. They didn’t stop protecting Ziggy because there was pressure.
Productivity- Everyone worked. Jane was very organized with her bookkeeping work and refused to take any money from her parents; Madeline enjoys her work which she knew she was good at too. Even though Celeste was filthy rich, she did most of the chores herself to be a good mother (when Perry wasn’t beating her).
Rationality- Sadly, Madeline’s husband Ed was the most rational person in the story with everyone behaving irrationally. Ed works for local newspaper, despite there being a potential to work for The Australian, he decided to maintain his current job that provides him financial security and flexibility. He always tries to be rational in different situations like being the voice of reason for Madeline when she was enraged. His rationality however didn’t make him to empathetic and he missed a few cues at times.
Pride- Unlike Ed, Madeline has a good grasp of her worth in any situations and is not afraid to draw attention to herself. She is usually right and she knows it, so she lets it known to others, though Ed sometimes has to bring her back down to Earth when Madeline was being unreasonable.
Independence- Everyone struggled for independence, Abigail wanted to do something nice on her own; Celeste wanted to be free from the abuse of Perry and Jane made herself as independent of her rearing of Ziggy as possible. They all got some form of independence at the end, with Jane learning to trust others and stop shutting herself out.
Justice- Justice is best served cold, everyone got what they deserved at the end. Jane finds a new relationship despite being traumatized by the rape for 5 years. Madeline realised her own mistakes in being bossy and started to change it and mend her relationships with everyone. Celeste went on to help victims of family violence by working in a family law firm.
No one should be disappointed from reading Big Little Lies, you will definitely learn a thing or two about friendship, competition and the economy of a aflluent town.