12 differences between the Big Little Lies book and show
Here are the biggest changes between Liane Moriarty's novel and HBO's Big Little Lies miniseries.
Big Little Lies
- TV Show
Sunday’s explosive Big Little Lies finale brought the HBO miniseries to a satisfying close. We finally learned who died on Trivia Night (and how they went out), as well as who was behind little Amabella’s mysterious injuries. But as with any book-to-screen adaptation, some of the details from Liane Moriarty’s original novel have been changed, for better or for worse. Here are the biggest ones that stand out to us — and obviously, there are SPOILERS AHEAD.
The book is set in Australia, while the show takes place in Monterey Bay, California
This is the most obvious change (and a common one when a foreign novel gets an American adaptation), but the HBO version stayed true to the beach town demographics, where lower-income families (like Jane and Ziggy) end up in the same school district as obscenely wealthy ones (Renata and Gordon; Celeste and Perry).
There’s a subplot about affairs in the book — none of which involve Madeline
That strange affair between Madeline and Avenue Q director Joseph? Didn’t happen at all in the book: No disloyalty to Ed, no discussion with Abigail. However, that doesn’t mean every marriage is faithful: At Trivia Night, Renata and Harper find out both of their husbands have been sleeping with Renata’s French nanny, Juliette, leading to a brawl between the husbands that conveniently diverts some attention away from the murder.
The whole Avenue Q storyline doesn’t exist in the book
Madeline still works part-time at the theater, but they’re not putting on an adult puppet show.
Madeline has a son
No one would want another kid to steal the attention from Chloe (Darby Camp), TV’s hippest 6-year-old, so removing the son Madeline also has in the book was probably the right choice. Sorry, Fred.
Jane and Tom’s growing friendship is a much bigger plot point
She opens up to him like she can’t with most men because she thinks he’s gay. This also makes the book’s reveal a whole lot funnier than the show’s throwaway line (“Wait, you’re straight?”).
Jane knows what her assailant looked like
The whole plot line of Jane going to see interior designer “Saxon Baker” doesn’t exist. In the book, her attacker told her his name was Saxon Banks, and when Celeste eventually learns the name, she says that Perry has a cousin by that name. Turns out throughout their childhood, Perry would do things and then when caught, say his name was Saxon Banks. So when the confrontation at trivia night happens, Perry looks at Jane and says he doesn’t believe they’ve met. Jane says they have: “But you told me your name was Saxon Banks.”
Abigail’s virginity auction doesn’t get shut down so easily
In fact, it isn’t until a mysterious old man in South Dakota offers to donate $100,000 to the cause if she takes her site down that Abigail actually complies. (The identity of the “man” is not known, but it’s heavily assumed to be Celeste.)
Celeste attended therapy alone
In the book, Perry doesn’t accompany Celeste to therapy — she goes alone, furtively. Outside of that first dual session, though, the content of the appointments is essentially the same in both iterations of Big Little Lies.
Bonnie pushes Perry in part because of a troubled backstory of her own
In the TV finale, Bonnie catches Perry being harsh with Celeste and keeps an eye on the situation, following him when he goes down to the area where his wife, Madeline, Jane, and Renata have gathered. When he eventually lunges at Celeste and starts attacking her, Bonnie flies seemingly out of nowhere and pushes him down the stairs.
In the book, it’s still Bonnie who pushes Perry — though it’s over a balcony ledge, not down a flight of stairs — but she later explains that she grew up with an abusive father of her own, which is why she knew the signs and had her own stockpile of rage to draw upon. Her past also helps explain her Zen persona now: It’s partly a response to her traumatic upbringing. (Another change, but far less important: Book Bonnie is blonde!)
Bonnie also turns herself in to the police
Even though the other women can and do lie for her, Bonnie decides to turn herself in for the murder in the end. She doesn’t go to jail, though, just gets community service (which, let’s be honest, she’d probably do anyway).
Celeste goes back into law
At the end of the show, Celeste’s secrets are still relatively under wraps. But in the book, she gets back into law after Perry’s death and becomes an advocate and speaker for domestic violence awareness.
And she gives Jane money for Ziggy
When the truth comes out that Ziggy is Perry’s son (and Celeste’s twins’ half-brother), Celeste gives Jane generous financial support for Ziggy, easing the money troubles that plagued the young mother for most of the novel (and show).
Big Little Lies readers: What other changes struck you? Did we miss something major? Was there anything you were glad not to see? Let us know in the comments.
Big Little Lies