Big Little Lies – Miniseries vs. Novel

I thought that I would do something different for this week’s review. I have recently read Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and have also viewed the television adaptation of it. The story is very interesting and well-suited for a miniseries. In this review I am going to compare the novel to the television show and discuss whether it was a faithful yet creative adaptation. If you have not read the book or seen the show then I would recommend doing that before reading this post!

**Warning: This post contains spoilers!**

Novel

Publication Date: 29 July 2014

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Contemporary

Pages: 460

Rating: screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-9-39-17-pm

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Goodreads Review:

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

As Big Little Lies follows the story of three women, it is told in each of their perspectives. The plot felt as though it was more closely fixed on Jane but the two other characters were just as interesting. My favourite character was Madeline as she was the happiest out of Jane and Celeste. Jane is a somewhat sad person after a tragedy in her past and comes across as aggressive and solemn at times. Celeste’s plot is quite hard to read because it involves domestic violence. Nonetheless, they were all very likeable characters.

Sporadically throughout the novel, such as at the end of a chapter, members of the community comment on the outcome of an event that the readers do not know about. Quite quickly we learn there was a death. It could be any of the characters and I did not predict who it would be, knowing it would be impossible to guess. The ending really shocked me and I was very pleased by it. I loved how everything played out in the end.

The novel was very entertaining to read. There are a lot of characters but it is easy to learn who they are and connect with them.

Miniseries

I really enjoyed the miniseries. It is only seven episodes long yet was able to reflect the themes present in the novel.

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**Warning: There are a lot of spoilers now!**

Characters

The television show has the exact same characters with minimal changes. An example of a minimal change is that in the novel, Madeline has three children: Abigail, Chloe and Fred. However, in the show, Fred is not present, and it is just Abigail and Chloe. This seemed to be a good exclusion because Fred’s presence is not necessary, but for Madeline’s overall story to progress, Abigail and Chloe are vital.

Jane (Shailene Woodley) was the most true to her character. Woodley fit the role quite well and portrayed Jane as a fragile yet aggressive person. In the novel, she has a really cute relationship with Tom that blossoms near the end. I think that the miniseries should have left out the part where Jane thought he was gay because it sounded kind of offensive and random in the context of the show. In the novel, their relationship was better developed.

The characters of Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) and Celeste (Nicole Kidman) were played really well by the actresses. They both did a very good job. Madeline seemed slightly different in the show, as she appeared more angry and sad. She still maintained her dominant, confident personality, which was great to see. It was sad to watch Celeste’s storyline to progress because of the abuse she was suffering from. There was a scene in the novel where Madeline apologised for not noticing anything in her friend’s marriage and it would have been nice to see this on the screen.

Events

The novel is set near the ocean in a Sydney town in Australia. The television show is set in California, United States. This change did not really effect the events as they remained very similar.

The biggest change in the series is that Madeline has an affair with her co-worker. I was shocked when this happened because this does not take place in the novel. Madeline and Ed are not the most in-love couple in the book but it did not lead me to believe that Madeline would have an affair. However, in the show, I could have sensed it coming because Madeline appeared somewhat bored with Ed. Their relationship was not as cute as it was in the novel.

The uncovering of Abigail’s website was done in a strange way. If I had not read the novel then I am sure I would have been confused. They also left out the part where Celeste (or some old guy from America) paid $100 000 to a charity for Abigail to take down the site. I honestly don’t know which outcome is better because the novel version is sort of ridiculous. The novel did explain things much better.

Finally, the ending in the show was beautiful. The shots of the waves hitting the rocks as Jane, Celeste, Madeline fought with Perry worked really well. The ending surprisingly stayed true to the novel and had Bonnie push Perry to his death. They did not explain why Bonnie impulsively pushed him but it was not entirely necessary to.

Discussion

There was a lack of comedy in the miniseries that was very evident in the novel. I thought the humour present in the novel made the dark themes easier to read. As this was lacking in the miniseries, it took me a long time to watch it. There certainly was humour in the show but it was not as obvious as it was in the novel. I really enjoyed watching and reading Big Little Lies but I liked the novel only slightly more because I was more engrossed in it. If I hadn’t read the novel I may not have continued watching the show.

Verdict: The novel wins.


  • What did you think of Big Little Lies?
  • Did you like the miniseries or novel more?
  • I just heard a few days ago that The Husband’s Secret by Moriarty is also being adapted! I’m not sure if it is a show or a film but it is going to star Blake Lively.

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5 thoughts on “Big Little Lies – Miniseries vs. Novel

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