What Was the Difference Between ‘Big Little Lies’ the Show and the Book?

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A few months ago, a friend gave me Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies to read. I started it, enjoyed it, but had a lot going on. When I realized that HBO was going to release a mini-series starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley, I knew I had finish this book. Well, as life would have it, I finished the book about a week before the finale. Naturally, I now have a expressed need to compare the two.

I find it interesting how much was left the same and yet how much was changed. Obviously, the biggest change is location. The book takes place in Sydney, Australia, while the mini-series is set in California.

That’s the only difference I can talk about that doesn’t spoil anything. So, if you want spoilers, continue reading. If you don’t, you’ve been warned.

All the big stuff is the same. Perry dies. Bonnie kills him. Perry is Ziggy’s father, as a result of assaulting Jane.

Bonnie’s Past

The reason that Bonnie pushed Perry isn’t included, though. In the book, she confronts Perry about his abuse — which she has just witnessed — and says the telling line “Your children see.” Later, Nathan pleads with Madeline and Ed not to reveal Bonnie’s crime, explaining her past.

“Bonnie’s father was violent,” Nathan tells them. “Very violent. I don’t think I even know half the stuff he did. Not to Bonnie. To her mum. But Bonnie and her little sister saw it all.”

In the book, even though they’re asked to lie, Bonnie comes forward and tells the police what she did. She gets community service. In the show, they all lie.


Ed’s Cover Up

That also leads to the fact that the husband’s didn’t witness the death as they had in the book. Ed has a major problem with covering up the details of Perry’s death and it puts strain on his marriage to Madeline, especially since she asks him to lie for her ex-husband, Nathan (Bonnie’s wife).

Renata’s Goodbye

The end of the book was much longer than the end of the series, answering more questions. What wasn’t included in the screen version is that Renata apologies to Ziggy. She also moves to London after discovering that her husband was one of two men having an affair with her nanny (a story line that only appeared in the book).

Ziggy’s Money

Similarly, we have more closure with Celeste’s story in the book. She sells the home she shared with Perry, goes back to work, and sets up trust funds for Perry’s three sons. Yep. Ziggy included.


Another big difference is that Madeline doesn’t have an affair in the book. She’s loyal to Ed and doesn’t have that convo with Abigail. Oh, and there’s no Avenue Q. She does work at a theater but that isn’t a big plot point. However, like I said before, the nanny is having an affair Renata’s husband … and Harper’s husband.

Missing Kid

Oh, and Madeline had a son with Ed! I almost completely forgot about Fred, Chloe’s brother. Maybe that’s why they left him out of the show.

Celeste’s Generosity

In the book, Abigail’s virginity auction is a much bigger problem. Madeline and Nathan do everything they can to get it shut down to no avail. It’s actually the first time in the book that I really started to feel for Nathan. It comes to an end, though, when a man from South Dakota offers $100,000 to Amnesty International if Abigail shuts it down and saves her virginity. That man, of course, is Celeste.

Saxon Banks

After Jane tells Madeline about Saxon Banks, she reveals in the book that she did try to find him and couldn’t. So there’s no drama about Madeline Googling him like in the series. There’s no finding the other guy and driving to see him with a gun. None of that is in the book. Instead, in the book, Celeste recognizes the name as Perry’s cousin and believes he is the one who assaulted Jane. Honestly, when I read that part it just solidified my guess that Perry was Ziggy’s father, so I think it was a good change.


When I read the book, I had Perry pegged pretty early as Jane’s assailant. I didn’t know who would die — Perry or Celeste — until the actual reveal. And I really had no idea that Bonnie would be the one to push him. The series did a much better job of showing Perry in a better light. Yes, he beat his wife, but in the series he shows remorse and even goes to therapy (in the book, Celeste goes to therapy alone). I hate to say that his character is likable at all, but I believe that’s the point that is trying to be conveyed. In the series, you understand why Celeste stays for so long. (Side note: she doesn’t call the sitter and ask her to take the boys to her new place in the book).


The book doesn’t show an intimate portrayal of Renata or her husband. I think it was brilliant to make Renata a person throughout the entire story (in the book, she and Jane become friends at the end). Also, by showing the sex scene between Renata and her husband early on, opens it up to wonder if he could Saxon Banks.

Overall, I have to say that I think the series did a much better job casting doubt on every character. Madeline has an added sin due to her relationship with Joseph, Renata’s husband can be a suspect for Jane’s assailant, but at the same time there’s a softer side to Perry. What do you think?