Big Little Lies: Does the TV show measure up to the novel?

This article does not contain spoilers about the TV Show or the novel, Big Little Lies.

The internet seems to be exploding with articles about Big Little Lies – the TV mini-series, that is, not the novel by Australian author, Liane Moriarty. However, lucky for Moriarty, any conversation about an adaptation inevitably leads to its novel, as it well should.

I am quite new to Moriarty’s work. I had my first taste of her talent with The Husband’s Secret last year when it was selected for a bookclub I belong to. I loved it. Moriarty has a wit that sits very well with me so I happily read The Hypnotist’s Love Story as another bookclub pick and I loved that one even more than The Husband’s Secret. But, despite many of my friends urging me on, I didn’t get around to picking up Big Little Lies, despite them all saying it was her best.


Then, news of the TV adaptation spread. Trailers were released. Being a long-time fan of Nicole Kidman, as well as a supporter of Australian books being adapted for film and TV, I knew I would watch this show. Plus, there was Alexander Skarsgård to consider (I’ve seen True Blood and Tarzan – don’t get me started on how much I liked Tarzan!). I thought that it might be time to read Big Little Lies in preparation for the show. I’m firmly a person who likes to know what I’m in for, the sort who deliberately reads spoilers and summaries in an effort to make a fully informed choice.

Except I never got around to it. Instead, I pretended that I had read it, because everybody else seemed to have and I had run out of time! I sat down to watch the first episode, along with millions of others, and was so impressed, so drawn in, and completely, utterly, hooked.


Between the first and second episodes, I read the novel. I had to know what was going to happen. There was no way I could wait seven weeks to find out who died, who did it, and why.

The novel was devoured. I absolutely ate it up and then I wrote this review about it:

Big Little Lies was nothing short of sensational. I’ve a read a few Liane Moriarty novels now and this one has certainly earned its place at the top of my favourites list. The comic overtures combined with the gravity of the events unfolding, provided a unique and winning combination that only the most skilled of writers could have possibly pulled off. I was, at times, in absolute stitches from laughing so hard and then at others, I found myself swallowing back tears at the raw honesty and reality of these characters and their lives. Big Little Lies is a novel that any parent or wife can relate to and that’s about all I feel I can say without wandering into the murky terrain of spoiling the story.


I continued watching the show, despite having just spoilt it all for myself. Or had I?

I firmly believe I read Big Little Lies at the most perfect time, right after that first episode. I was able to watch the show with so much more clarity. Yes, I knew the who, what, and why, but that didn’t matter. Each weekly episode still brought surprises, still kept me sitting with baited breath, still a little unsure how they were going to pull it all off.

Most of this was due to Perry and Celeste, played by Skarsgård and Kidman. These two, with their terrible love, were nothing short of sensational. The rest of the cast were equally fabulous, particularly Reece Witherspoon. There were times that I wished Shailene Woodley would just have a proper wash – there was a little too much of that teenage greasy slept in my eyeliner and haven’t washed my hair for two weeks going on – but other than that, no complaints on the cast front. In that final episode particularly, each cast member had an opportunity to shine and show off just what they were made of, and it was powerful viewing, a fine example of how a certain look, when delivered just right, can say so much more than words. One of the few times I will concede that film and TV can have an edge over the written word.


I’ve read many comments from Australian fans who would have loved to see Big Little Lies set in Australia. For me, yes and no. Yes, it would have worked fine, setting wise, but given the star line-up, would any of them other than Kidman have bothered with the show had it been set in Australia? Personally, and sadly, I don’t think so.

My only complaint about the show, compared to the novel, was that most of the wit was lost in translation. The interrogation scenes in the show were no match at all for the interrogation passages sprinkled throughout the novel. When I said in my review I was laughing so hard, these were the bits I was laughing at, that ‘Moriarty wit’ no one else ever really comes close to matching.

So, the point of this long winded article, other than to share my opinion and take up space online? Well, it’s to recommend, that if you haven’t read Big Little Lies yet, then you should, and if you haven’t watched the TV show either, then you might like to watch the first episode, then read the book, after which you should then watch the rest. I promise you won’t be sorry.

One final note: Ms Moriarty, if you are reading this, please, no Season 2. Some things are best left to the imagination!

Big Little Lies is book 13 in my 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge.


All images of the TV show Big Little Lies were sourced from HBO.