Author : Leïla Slimani
Title : Lullaby (also published as The Perfect Nanny)
Pages : 256
Publisher : Faber & Faber
Publication day : January 4, 2018
When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect caretaker for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family’s chic apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint and is able to host enviable birthday parties.
The couple and nanny become more dependent on each other. But as jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, Myriam and Paul’s idyllic tableau is shattered.
The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds.
How’s that for a tagline? If those few words don’t grab you by the throat and make you gasp, then I just don’t know anymore. This is how the story ends in the most horrifying way imaginable. But how did we get there?
The nanny, Louise, hasn’t had the easiest of lives. She’s poor, lives in solitude and minding children is all she’s ever done and all she feels she’s good for. She’s hired by Myriam and Paul to look after their two children. I must say I had an instant dislike for this couple. I found them to be incredibly snobbish and they increasingly seem to take Louise for granted. Sure, Louise is going out of her way to be the perfect nanny, become indispensable, until ultimately it seems everyone is enjoying quite the easy life, except for her.
I must say this didn’t quite turn out the way I thought it would. If you’re expecting a fast-paced and super tense psychological thriller, this isn’t it. Sure, there is a mystery to be solved and although the who is obvious from the first chapter, the why is an entirely different matter. There are no twists and turns, no shocking reveals but an honest, painful, sad and raw account of events that is so immensely beautifully written that it completely absorbed me.
Lullaby is a pretty hard novel to review and I’m having a hard time finding the words to describe how I feel about it. Translated from French, it’s easy to see why this novel won the awards it has in its original language. It’s a thought-provoking and deeply unsettling story that is sure to get readers talking. With the English translation, it’ll have the opportunity to spread far and wide to a new audience and I have no doubt it will do well.
Special thanks to Janel for nudging me into picking this one up. 😉
Lullaby / The Perfect Nanny was published in January.