Blurb: The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds. When Myriam decides to return to work, she and her husband look for a nanny for their two young children. They find their dream candidate: Louise, a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family’s chic Paris apartment, stays late without complaint and hosts enviable birthday parties. But as the couple and their nanny become increasingly dependent on each other, jealousy, resentment and suspicions start to breed, and Myriam and Paul’s idyllic domesticity is shattered.
Author: Leïla Slimani
Translator: Sam Taylor
Publisher: Faber and Faber
I attended a talk a few months ago now where I listened to the publicity team from Faber and Faber talk about how excited they were for the release of this book in English after the original French novel had done so well. That sold me. I went out and bought the book almost immediately – and I was not disappointed.
This book shows us the two sides of human nature and how easy it can be for someone to tip over the edge. How so many factors impact our personalities and can ultimately govern what we’re capable of. We’re introduced to a lovely, if not slightly troubled young family where father, Paul, doesn’t want to give up his music career and mother, Myriam, is itching to get back to work after being a full-time mom to her young children, Mila and Adam. The answer to this problem is to hire a nanny and they fall in love with Louise who appears to be the perfect fit for their family. But as time progresses, Louise’s calm facade gives way to the trouble beneath.
I really enjoyed the way that this book was written. It’s written in third person which is not usually what I read but I felt like it was the perfect way to give us readers an understanding of what everyone’s feeling during one particular scene. The translation between languages wasn’t noticeable and the story flowed well. The characters were realistic, with both positives and negatives of their personalities being shown. I really appreciated that as not only does it make them believable, but also means that the plot is more realistic also. For example, Myriam obviously loves her children but can’t stand being confined to the house with them all day every day, letting us understand their need for a nanny in the first place.
The events were suitably chilling without being too outlandish. Subtle things that linked to themes in the novel. For example, Louise’s treatment of the chicken (trying not to give too much away) we are able to link to her financial issues, where nothing should be thrown away. I thought these links advanced the story perfect while really playing up to the genre.
As for what I disliked about the book, I would have to say that the ending could have been extended a little. Although we are led to believe that Louise snapped, resulting in the death of the children (not a spoiler as we know that from the tagline) we don’t know what in particular pushed her over the edge. We can infer that everything got too much, the children are too loud, her fantasies aren’t playing out the way she imagined – and we can also understand that violence isn’t something that is new to Louise – but I’d love to know what it was that triggered her actions. Maybe that’s just the macabre in me.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a thriller based on the twists of human nature and how it can impact our actions.
Have you read this book? What did you think? Have you read any of the books that come after this one? I’d love to know!