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Big Little Lies: A book and TV series comparison

Big Little Lies: A book and TV series comparison

Liane Moriarty’s novel Big Little Lies released in 2014 and was an instant hit. Coincidentally, the first time I heard of the author was when Reese Witherspoon posted a photo Truly Madly Deeply on her Instagram account. If Reese was reading Moriarty, I knew I had to. I read Big Little Lies and I’m currently reading A Husband’s Secret.

While there are multiple differences between the New York Times Bestseller and the HBO miniseries, I’ll be focusing on the 5 that stuck out to me most.

1) Madeline’s Character is night and day.

If you’ve read the Harry Potter books, you know book Ginny is way better than movie Ginny. Just as the movies didn’t do Ginny justice, the series didn’t do Madeline justice. Early in the TV series you hear Ed say Madeline is drawn to broken people, which in part describes book Madeline perfectly. In the novel, Madeline strives for perfection, and is seen that way by the mothers, though she does have a sassy side. She just wants to be the perfect mother and take care of her children and her friends. Reese Witherspoon, the Executive Producer of the show, says she created a flaw so she would have something to “sink her teeth into”.

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Madeline also didn’t have an affair as portrayed on HBO. Talk about creating a flaw. Madeline is a fixer, she enjoys being the organized mother who will take care of her friends at the drop of a hat. Though her character isn’t as complex as Ginny, book Madeline is better.

2) The impact of Jane’s rape is downplayed

In the show, the audience experiences Jane’s rape through a flashback, without dialogue. Of course, this was done to conceal Perry’s identity, but it leaves us focusing on the violence, and not the mental effects of the assault.

In the book, we learn Jane was “voluptuous”, as she put it, before the rape. “Saxon Banks” doesn’t just physically abuse Jane, but also mentally abuses her. He calls her fat and ugly throughout the entire act, leaving her in such a state of shock, she doesn’t resist. As if rape isn’t mentally scaring enough, Jane develops an eating disorder leaving her thin, and throughout the book her eating struggles are constantly reoccurring. 

3) Jane and Celest had a much closer friendship in the novel

I absolutely adored that they were close in the book. You have Celeste that is constantly worshiped for her beauty, and plain Jane that develop a tight knit friendship. In the book it just begins as taking beach side walks, but Jane eventually opens up to Celeste about her past. As if being abused by the same man isn’t enough to be eternally connected, it makes a bigger impact in the end knowing they were truly friends.

4) Abigail’s Virginity Auction

Alright, don’t judge me for being a terrible human being, but reading that Abigail was auctioning off her virginity on the internet made me laugh so hard. Eh hem, moving forward.

During episode 6 “Burning Love” Nathan decides to drop the bomb that Abigail is auctioning off her virginity. You know, for charity. After a hilarious scene of projectile vomiting, Madeline admits to her daughter she isn’t perfect and is cheating on Ed, Abigail takes the site down herself. Womp Womp.

In the book, Abigail’s site goes live, as Madeline discovers it. Madeline breaks the news to Nathan, who is equally angry and disgusted. This naturally turns into blaming Bonnie and Nathan for their lax parental skills as Abigail has been creating the site and making it live right under their precious hippie noses. Abigail doesn’t do the deed though, a donor from South Dakota generously offers $100,000 for her to take down the site. It’s suspected to be Celeste, but is never confirmed. That dynamic made for good reading, and I think it would have made good TV.

5) The killing of Perry. The HBO series didn’t do the climax justice in my opinion. When Perry confronts Celest in front of the whole crew, it takes Shailene Woodley’s Jane a moment until she realizes he is her attacker. Madeline soon catches on, then Celeste, and ultimately Bonnie pushes him over the edge after seeing Perry beat his wife.

There are multiple differences in the novel. In the book, Nathan releases some background information on Bonnie, explaining that her father was physically abusive and she suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because of it. This tidbit of information makes it more relatable as to why she snaps and pushes Perry over the edge. But watching a man beat his wife is well enough reason alone.

Jane knows what her attacker looked like in the book. Madeline and Celeste show them a photo of Saxon Banks on the internet, and she immediately knows that’s the wrong guy. The moment Jane looks at Perry, she calls out “Saxon?” Madeline and Celeste share a look of horror and realization. Jane confronts Perry, and he admits to raping her, showing no signs of guilt. The confrontation escalates between Perry, Jane, Madeline and Celeste, and in natural Perry fashion, he hits Celeste. Bonnie all the while has become increasingly hysterical putting the pieces together of what Perry has done, and once she sees him hit Celeste, she pushes him to his death.

-Go with the tide-


Questions for you:

-What did you think of the HBO series? 

-Have you read Big Little Lies? What differences stood out to you the most? 

The Husband's Secret Review

The Husband's Secret Review