Books vs. TV

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty: Book vs. TV Show

This post contains spoilers – beware!

Big Little Lies book vs. Big Little Lies TV show

Madeline, Celeste and Jane are a trio of wealthy young women in Monterey, California. Their lives are shattered when a murder takes place in their idyllic town, unravelling a can of worms.

Content Warnings: domestic and physical abuse, sexual assault

Hello, fellow readers! 👋 It’s been a good long while since I did a book/media comparison, so I’m excited to finally post this one! Today I wanted to discuss Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies with the HBO series of the same name.

Both the book and TV show are seriously popular, and have won lots of awards, so this should be an interesting discussion!

In my opinion, the most obvious strength of the TV show adaptation is its all-around star-studded cast. I mean, come on, with actors like Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Zoë Kravitz and Meryl Streep in the lead, it’d be pretty hard for this show to fail. But even so, HBO’s Big Little Lies is well worth the hype.

It’s the perfect example of a well executed book-to-TV-show adaptation.

There were definitely some differences between the two, most notably the location of the story moving from Australia to Monterey Bay, California, USA. However, for someone who is usually very picky about movie/TV adaptations strictly adhering to their book inspiration, I didn’t mind this – and that went for almost all the other changes the TV show made. I think that’s likely because despite there being a few prominent differences between the book and the show, the ~essence~ of the original story was well preserved.

Some differences – like the larger focus on Laura Dern’s character Renata Klein – actually added to the overall story I believe. Nevertheless, there were definitely some choices the writers of the TV show decided to include that I found hard to get behind after having read the book first. Particularly, I just couldn’t get behind Reese Witherspoon’s character Madeline Martha Mackenzie cheating on her husband.

I was honestly quite upset with this development, because I really liked Madeline when reading the book, and (up until that point) adored how Reese Witherspoon brought her to life. I firmly believe that the storyline of her carrying on an affair goes against the foundation of Madeline’s character – which, while being more than a tad histrionic and having a taste for the dramatic – is above all else a good person who is loyal to her core and prioritizes the needs of those she cares for above all else. The idea of her cheating not just once but multiple times on her husband flies in the face of that, and if anything restricted her character development rather than added to it in my eyes.

I get that the show needed to add in more ~Drama~ to fill up two seasons worth of episodes, but still, it just didn’t work for me. 🤷🏻‍♀️

And along those lines, I really had to question what was The Point of the second season at all?

Don’t get me wrong – Meryl Streep was absolutely incredible in it as Mary Louise Wright, Perry’s mother. To be such a beloved actress and still manage to portray a character with so much realistic vileness to her that the audience instantly felt repulsed in her presence – I was sincerely impressed.

However, the rest of the second season just… didn’t really do anything for me. It wasn’t horrible by any means, but it also wasn’t thrilling like its predecessor. Overall it seemed kind of unnecessary as a whole….

For me, it just fell flat. 🙃

That being said, I know critically the second season was extremely well received – maybe not quite as highly as the first season, but nevertheless, it was still praised – so I’m likely in the minority here. So, what about you? What did you think?

Have you watched the show? Read the book?

What were your thoughts? Which one did you like better?

Let me know!

Liza is a twenty-something book blogger who spends way too much time with her nose in books and feels way too much. She loves cooking, baking, reality tv show watching and, of course, reading. She can be found most often with a cup of tea in one hand and a book in the other. Her blog, Literary Liza, features bookish content like reviews, recommendations, and author interviews.


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