Tag Archives: books

My Problem With Big Little Lies

Have you read a book and then debated with yourself for months about whether you liked it or not? That’s been me with Big Little Lies. I’ve been such a mess over Australian author Liane Moriarty’s bestselling women’s fiction title that I haven’t been able to even properly articulate what was getting on my nerves for so long.

In fact, I still don’t know if I can. But let’s try, shall we?

First of all, I’ll start by admitting that I’m pretty stingy with both my monthly Audible credit (even with their guaranteed return policy, which I’ve used often) and with my time. And women’s fiction hasn’t generally been a genre that has treated me well in the past. There, I said it.

While there have been a few books here and there that were really refreshing and fun (I’m thinking What Would Mary Berry Do? ), my expectations have much more often been crushed, leaving me feeling as though I’d wasted precious time.

So when I settled on reading/listening to Big Little Lies, it wasn’t just out of a desire for a good story, but from knowing that I’d be able to partake in so many conversations exploding around what was then about to be made into an HBO mini-series starring blockbuster Hollywood names like Reese Witherspoon (who actually acted in and also produced the series) and Julia Roberts.

And for much of the story, fourteen hours narrated by a pleasant-voiced woman with a mild Australian accent, I wasn’t unimpressed. I found the portrayal of a domestic abuser to be eerily accurate, and this was to my eyes (ears?) a big artistic/literary accomplishment. I mean, even after what I say next, by all means, read this novel just to get a great bird’s-eye view of the cycle of domestic violence, to get one too-common perspective on the question of why women don’t leave, and to see how horrid and even more disgusting it is than you may have previously imagined.

But then the story progressed and something happened to ruin it all… This book that I’d felt had really done a great deal to recover the broken image of chick-lit (okay, we call it women’s fiction now) as a bunch of sexist drivel was portraying women as spectacularly irrational, comically irrational.

Upon the death of one of the characters, an accidental murder of sorts as it were, rather than honestly fess up to authorities, the women chose to huddle together in what can only be described as a show of primitive tribal loyalty (to the woman tribe!) and to lie to investigators and police in order to protect one of their own. How heartwarming.

Amidst this, the only voices of doubt or reason were men’s—who it turns out stood no chance against the potential wrath of their wives, whose allegiance didn’t lie with democratic and civilized values but with their vagina tribe. (So those men were easily shushed.)

You should seriously read this book and tell me what you think. I want to know! I can’t be the only person who noticed this glaring issue.

Fourteen hours of listening is, what, two weeks worth of cardio time? Do it!

Pick up the Audible audiobook here (you get a free trial membership that you can cancel immediately after picking up the book…)

Or pick up the actual book here.

 

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The Most Important Quality of a Successful Memoir

Today, I want to consider the best quality that a narrator can exhibit while writing a memoir. It’s not a nuanced understanding of words or a crafty way with sentences. It’s not a great memory for outside events and circumstances or the ability to patiently pore over descriptions of minute details. These things are certainly important, and without them an otherwise good memoir might fail, but there’s another quality that is necessary in order for a memoir with all of these virtues to succeed yet.

What is that quality? It’s the author’s level of self awareness! Self awareness is the key to framing unique personal experiences in a way that they can enrich and interest the minds and lives of strangers with whom we might have precious little in common.

I was recently reading the first chapters of a memoir. The writing wasn’t bad–it could have improved with some structural edits, but nothing major. But the pages almost reeked of self-delusion. Small inconveniences were stretched for paragraphs against the background of a life of immense privilege and unusual luck. And yet these foundational building blocks of the very inconveniences that were bemoaned were not even acknowledged.

I personally believe there is no life not worth writing about and no human whose story, given a good storyteller, isn’t good. And yet it takes great awareness to connect the dots and figure out what the story is. In this case, the aforementioned author’s despair had nothing to do with the trivialities of life, but with the immensity of the prospect of having peaked before middle age, being stuck, etc.

It’s important to not only find the maturity to meet and acknowledge such despair but to share it with readers who might then root for the arc to follow, one of rising to the occasion and finding the courage to sail against winds, come what may.

That’s an arc that can inspire anybody. And yet this person entirely missed their own heroic journey.

On that note, my favourite memoir of all time is Broken Music by Sting. You can check it out by clicking the link (Amazon) and you can read an excerpt from it.

Comment your thoughts. Writing to you from my mobile device.