Calendar Girls September: Best Novel Set in a School

Yay, it’s time for to take part in the Calendar Girls meme again! That came around quick! 

Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia at Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads. It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favorite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post. 

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…

calendar girls september (1)

Books set in a school? Hmmmm…😜

There’s one incredibly obvious choice for this category but I thought (as usual) that I’d be a bit different and choose a book that might be focused around a school but whose main characters are the parents, not the kids. Also, I was shamelessly able to use my own review of the book to write this post (bonus!)

My pick is…

Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty

The book is based around three women whose children are all starting at the same school. There’s Madeline, the down to earth, making-it-up-as-she-goes-along mum; Celeste, the beautiful, rich, slightly vacant mum; and Jane, the downtrodden young mum. The three women become friends, but an incident involving Jane’s son and another little girl creates escalating tension between all of the parents at the school. Everyone seems to have their own take on the matter, and as the parents form allegiances they’re forced to act in a way that protects their own secrets from becoming public knowledge. As the parents become more polarised, emotions are heightened until everything comes to a head at a fateful school fancy dress party – the scene of a terrible crime.

Big Little Lies is written partly in the format of a police investigation, so the reader instantly knows that the story is going to end in some kind of criminal incident. I really liked the way that the narrative was often juxtaposed with a witness statement from another parent which put a totally different spin on the situation – it was really cleverly done and showed how perceptions can be so distorted based on our own prejudices and preconceived ideas.

Despite the playground politics and petty bitchiness, there’s a central theme of strong female friendship and loyalty which was really refreshing to read about. I loved how different Madeline, Celeste and Jane were, yet they all found common ground and faced many of the same issues. I also loved how the different family types were shown – the single parent, the blended family and the traditional two parent setup, and the problems and pitfalls of each.

The book is very female-centric and there’s a fantastic portrayal of lots of different female relationships – as wives, friends, parents, enemies, grandparents, step parents, victims…the list goes on. All of the characters were totally unique and I loved watching their lives unfold based on the way that they reacted to each other.

I loved the ending to the book and the big plot twist that I didn’t see coming. I can’t believe the novel is 480 pages long – I tore through it as it was really fast paced and the characters were all really interesting and well developed.

I’m sure that Big Little Lies will get tarred with the “chick lit” brush but this isn’t some silly romance, it’s a really unique psychological thriller – that just happens to be based at the school gates. It reminded me a lot of Desperate Housewives (season one, before it went downhill) so any fans of that will definitely enjoy it, although I think there’s something in it for everyone. 

25 thoughts on “Calendar Girls September: Best Novel Set in a School

  1. Every time I heard people talking about this one I always thought it was “Pretty Little Liars”. The titles are similar enough that I didn’t realize this was a completely different book. Sounds interesting. What a unique choice!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think this is “chick lit” I think this is more! Liane Moriarty has an excellent “press” and I don’t see her books like “chick lit” really. Great choice!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve not read this book or seen the T.V. show, but I think this is a really fun pick for this theme! Especially since a lot of us are not in school anymore and our relationship to the back-to-school season has changed ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yeah this theme really tested my “no backpacks” rule so I wanted something that was more adult focused. Also I forgot that Americans call University “school” – to me you leave school at 16 – so that narrowed my choice too!

      Liked by 1 person

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