I wanted to read the book before I watched the TV series, mainly out of exasperation that the location was changed from the Northern Beaches in Sydney, Australia to somewhere in the US. I don't believe that US audiences are so stunted that they can't accept and understand a great story containing universal themes set in another country. We got used to 'their' stories, surely then can get used to 'ours'?
Now that I have my rant out of the way (it will probably go unread as this review will be way, way down the list so no one will be bothered to click through all the pages to read it; not really sure why I bothered), this was a great story. It was really well handled with just the right dose of reality, wry observations, irony, irreverence, delicious bitchiness, ridiculousness and compassion so that the messages and themes aren't weighed down by the burden of their gravitas.
I won't go into detail about the themes, the messages and the characters (other than to say my favourite was Madeline, she was such a hoot!) as other reviewers have probably covered it in sufficiently insightful detail. I would only say that if you are a bit shy about reading it because of all the publicity around this and the TV series, don't be, it's fantastic.