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Big little world

Roger’s post this morning about cozy mysteries reminded me that I spent my Sunday devouring Liane Moriarty‘s Big Little Lies. I loved the recent HBO miniseries starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley, and the book is just as thoroughly enjoyable. My boyfriend asked me which I liked better, and I replied, “I like them in conjunction!” — which probably tells you a lot about my attitude towards page-to-screen adaptations.

The story in either medium does have several elements of cozy mystery — such as a insular setting, comical, gossipy secondary characters, and only one death — as well as a bit of beach read, but certainly doesn’t shy away from themes of sex, violence, and sexual violence. It’s a story very much about the strength of women and their friendships. As a huge fan of both Gillian Flynn and Tana French, I loved that Big Little Lies has the plot twisty-turniness and complex interpersonal dynamics of those authors’ series with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments to break the tension. I was delighted to find that the show’s setting in breathtaking Monterey, CA, was actually transposed from the book’s (fictional) Pirriwee Pennisula in western Australia; the vividly evoked town of Pirriwee is more than a fair trade for the show’s sweeping beach cinematography. Plus, the book introduces the interjection oh, calamity! (a “very contagious phrase” adopted from one family’s bedtime reading, which spreads throughout the entire community). I highly recommend both versions…in conjunction, of course.

Anyway, when I finished the book and read the acknowledgements, I was surprised to learn that Liane Moriarty is the sister of YA novelist Jaclyn Moriarty — a long-time Horn Book favorite. I haven’t read any of her novels myself, I’m ashamed to say (oh, calamity!), but I’m immediately adding everything by both sisters Moriarty to my teetering TBR pile.

For those of you who already know and love Jaclyn Moriarty’s work, you’ll want to check out these links:

(Speaking of cozy mysteries, today’s Fiction Review of the Week happens to be a two-fer: the first two books in author Dori Hillestad Butler and illustrator Nancy Meyers’s King & Kayla easy reader series about girl-sleuth Kayla and her doggie-sidekick King. And there are snacks! Sounds like it would have been the perfect series for me as a new reader.)

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Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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