There’s been a murder at a school event. Jane is new in town with her son Ziggy, running from a secret she’s been hiding since before he was born. On the first day of school, she meets Madeline and Celeste, close friends who both seem to have their lives together. The beginning of a new friendship group sends ripples through the cliques and hierarchy of school social circles, leading to gossip and blame from all sides.
What fascinated me about this novel the most was the structure of the narrative. Due to the police incidents and interviews at the beginning of each chapter, we begin to realise the significance of each of the events in the chapter before it begins. The main narrative is leading to the school fundraiser at the end of the novel. The police investigations take place after this timeline. The interweaving of these two styles and narratives makes for an intriguing mystery and allows us to reflect as the plot unfolds.
Seemingly, as the novel continues, the school playground antics seem irrelevant to the big “murder” investigation, only really highlighting the nature of the town and gossip, cliquey way the school and town is run. However, it is these adult relationships and groups that seem to mould the events transpiring in their children’s lives. It is only in the reveal at the end of the novel that these loose ends, or seemingly irrelevant plot points, tie together to fit the complexities of the hidden lives of the adults.
Each of the main characters: Jane, Madeline and Celeste, all live very different lives, even as their children join the same class, at the same time, at the same school. Jane has a hidden past, something she is running from and the problems Ziggy seems to have at school confirm all of Jane’s worries about her past. Madeline struggles with her ex-husband’s new daughter starting school at the same time as her own daughter, tying her into the centre of the school drama. Celeste lives the perfect life and is the perfect person. Yet, darker things loom behind closed doors, something that ties all these women together seamlessly as the novel concludes.