I usually try to avoid books featuring warring parents (both the intra and extra-familial kind). As a non-parent myself, novels featuring yummy mummies or daddies or parents trying to outdo each other; those where the parenting skills of others are judged; and even discussions about the way children are parented make my eyes glaze over.
It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy these books but it means I’m less likely to engage with the characters, though I realise they’re excellent bookclub fodder for groups of school mums and the like. They are – of course – of more interest if they feature something dire… like a disappearance or a murder, which The Trivia Night by Ali Lowe does.
The Trivia Night
by Ali Lowe
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: General Fiction, Women's Fiction
From the outside the parents of the kindergarten class at Darley Heights primary school seem to have it all. Living in the wealthy Sydney suburbs, it's a community where everyone knows each other - and secrets don't stay secret for long.
The big date in the calendar is the school's annual fundraising trivia night, but when the evening gets raucously out of hand, talk turns to partner-swapping. Initially scandalised, it's not long before a group of parents make a reckless one-night-only pact.
But in the harsh light of day, those involved must face the fallout of their behaviour. As they begin to navigate the shady aftermath of their wild night, the truth threatens to rip their perfect lives apart - and revenge turns fatal.
On the face of it this sounds reminiscent of Big Little Lies – everything that happens falling out of a school fundraising event. And it is similar, featuring several couples – who look perfect from the outside but struggling with secrets of their own.
There are multiple layers to this book and its target audience – parents of younger children – will certainly relate to the marital and relationship woes, and to the concerns about expectations of others when it comes to them as parents, husbands, wives, partners, friends and breadwinners. In addition to the usual marital and parental challenges things go a little further here, dipping into swinging and partner-swapping.
Lowe does it on purpose I realise, but she certainly offers up the cliches…. the fit-looking mothers all coming to do school drop off or pick up in their yoga gear, driving their fancy SUVs. Wealthy husbands with varying levels of interest in their children. Men and women feeling unfulfilled in their marriages – considering affairs, worrying about money and drinking too much.
But there is a deeper level here as Lowe goes further with some of our cast pondering what they’re prepared to settle for or construe as happiness. She offers us flawed but sympathetic characters, some of whom we get to know better than others.
Lowe’s writing is wordy but conversational. Comfortable and familiar. I enjoyed this book and liked the complexity of the characters though it was more about warring individuals and couples than it was mysterious, sinister or suspenseful – which is more my preferred genre.
It does however veer into a slightly different direction at the end without a lot of foreshadowing. I wasn’t surprised and expected something similar, and though I think it was meant to be shocking it seemed a little overdue and anticlimactic for this lover of mysteries and thrillers.
That being said… I’m certain – as I mentioned – this will appeal to readers still in the throes of parenting younger children and it will certainly be good bookclub fodder with many (many) moral or ethical issues to consider. I for one wondered why the book unfolds from three women’s points of view, when there were four involved in the evening and wondered why Lowe made that decision.
The Trivia Night by Ali Lowe was published in Australia by Hachette and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.
PS. I didn’t ‘love’ Big Little Lies which many did so it probably says something about my taste!