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When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect nanny for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite, devoted woman who sings to the children, cleans the family's chic apartment in Paris's upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint, and When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect nanny for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite, devoted woman who sings to the children, cleans the family's chic apartment in Paris's upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on one another, jealousy, resentment, and suspicions mount, shattering the idyllic tableau.


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When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect nanny for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite, devoted woman who sings to the children, cleans the family's chic apartment in Paris's upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint, and When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect nanny for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite, devoted woman who sings to the children, cleans the family's chic apartment in Paris's upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on one another, jealousy, resentment, and suspicions mount, shattering the idyllic tableau.

30 review for The Perfect Nanny

  1. 4 out of 5

    Emily May

    Where do these stories come from? They emanate from Louise, in a continual flood, without her even thinking about it, without her making the slightest effort of memory or imagination. But in what black lake, in what deep forest has she found these cruel tales where the heroes die at the end, after first saving the world? I saw The Perfect Nanny on the Millions Most Anticipated list. It's a short book, and my library had it available to read immediately, so I thought: why not? I had very few e Where do these stories come from? They emanate from Louise, in a continual flood, without her even thinking about it, without her making the slightest effort of memory or imagination. But in what black lake, in what deep forest has she found these cruel tales where the heroes die at the end, after first saving the world? I saw The Perfect Nanny on the Millions Most Anticipated list. It's a short book, and my library had it available to read immediately, so I thought: why not? I had very few expectations going into it, but this quiet, ugly little book crept right under my skin. It opens with a horrendous and engaging first chapter - two young children have been murdered. The story then moves back in time to the before; back to when Myriam decides to return to her career and hire a nanny to look after her two kids. Louise walks into the lives of Myriam and her husband, Paul, and completely exceeds their expectations of what a nanny should be. She cooks, she cleans, she plays, she teaches, she pretends, she hosts parties, and she accompanies them on vacation. Soon, Louise is deeply-embedded in every aspect of their lives and it is hard to imagine being without her. But... as they grow more closely-entwined than ever, Louise often becomes a burden. Too perfect. Too intense. Strange things start happening and Myriam begins to wonder if there is a darker side to this perfect nanny. And that was when she heard it. Most people live their whole lives without ever hearing a scream like that. It is the kind of scream heard during war, in the trenches, in other worlds, on other continents. It is not a scream from here. It's a strange book, mostly concerned with daily life and the interactions between the main few characters. But there is something extremely disquieting about it. Each scene is expertly told with tension simmering just under the surface, and it is no less effective for having given up the ending in the first chapter. I haven't read the original in french, but the translation seems fantastic. I know many readers will be left feeling dissatisfied by the ending and how it feels like we haven't been given enough reasons to justify the horrors of the book, but I actually found this even more haunting. It's the kind of book that beautifully tells a tragic story, but it narrates the events rather than considering the emotions that led to them. This leaves us to draw our own conclusions and, I have to say, my mind has been spinning around ever since I finished the last page. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

  2. 4 out of 5

    Roxane

    This is one of this intensely interior novels that are claustrophobic and incredibly engaging and disturbing. I was very aware that I was reading a translation and I have no doubt that in French, this novel is a show stopper. The translation is good but clunky at times. I suppose that is the nature of most translation. As a portrait of a nanny who ends up murdering her charges (not a spoiler), this novel does a good job of creating ambiguity and never really showing a clear cut why of the crime. This is one of this intensely interior novels that are claustrophobic and incredibly engaging and disturbing. I was very aware that I was reading a translation and I have no doubt that in French, this novel is a show stopper. The translation is good but clunky at times. I suppose that is the nature of most translation. As a portrait of a nanny who ends up murdering her charges (not a spoiler), this novel does a good job of creating ambiguity and never really showing a clear cut why of the crime. We also see little of the aftermath. Instead, you read the entire novel knowing something terrible is coming. In that, Slimani has us in her thrall. At times, the prose is overly indulgent and overwritten. Like, we get it. Chill. But still. This is a great novel. Lots to admire here.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    Not sure how to rate this. This book is less of a thriller and more of a character study. I normally enjoy those and liked the atmospheric writing and ramped-up tension in the beginning of this book. What intrigued me the most was the comments on societal division of work and Moroccan immigrants, especially in a setting like France which has issues with xenophobia. I wish we had gotten more critique of that, or of anything, really — there isn’t much of an outcome or many answers when you read th Not sure how to rate this. This book is less of a thriller and more of a character study. I normally enjoy those and liked the atmospheric writing and ramped-up tension in the beginning of this book. What intrigued me the most was the comments on societal division of work and Moroccan immigrants, especially in a setting like France which has issues with xenophobia. I wish we had gotten more critique of that, or of anything, really — there isn’t much of an outcome or many answers when you read the rest of the book, which makes it difficult to stay interested. Even the ending remains enigmatic in a way that didn't feel satisfying.

  4. 4 out of 5

    j e w e l s

    FIVE STARS I still have chills days after finishing THE PERFECT NANNY. I’ve skipped over this novel many times thinking it would be the old “hand that rocks the cradle” plot. I could not have been more wrong. This unusual book got under my skin in the quietest, creepiest way possible and it deserves nothing less than 5 stars. The story opens with a brief graphic scene of violence depicting the death of two young children at the hands of their nanny. I almost put down the book, I was afraid it wou FIVE STARS I still have chills days after finishing THE PERFECT NANNY. I’ve skipped over this novel many times thinking it would be the old “hand that rocks the cradle” plot. I could not have been more wrong. This unusual book got under my skin in the quietest, creepiest way possible and it deserves nothing less than 5 stars. The story opens with a brief graphic scene of violence depicting the death of two young children at the hands of their nanny. I almost put down the book, I was afraid it would continue. But, no, that is only the first two pages. An unsettling and disturbing framework is set and the reader now views the rest of the story from the beginning, all the while knowing how this is going to end. Since we know WHO, the driving force of this tense character profile is WHY? As in real life, we see glimpses of madness in a person, but rarely is there a definable answer as to why someone would commit such a heinous act. Instead, it is a combination of inexplicable factors in a disturbed mind that may quietly lead to violence. The terrifying part to me is how the loving parents unknowingly invited a madwoman into their home. She appeared to them to be an angel, an actual Mary Poppins. Until, the unraveling began. And then it was too late. She has the keys to their apartment; she knows everything; she has embedded herself so deeply in their lives that it now seems impossible to remove her. The writing is smooth, yet spare. Leila Slimani has won many writing awards in her home country of France and it is easy to see why. I love this style of writing with one omniscient narrator telling the story in a simple, almost hypnotic manner. The short book is absolutely riveting and compulsively readable. This is for readers that loved Unraveling Oliver or We Need to Talk About Kevin. However, this novel feels completely fresh and is a much faster read than either of these. Truly, one of my new favorites.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Elena

    She drinks and the discomfort of living, the shyness of breathing, all this anguish dissolves in the liquid sips. This book is quite creepy and slightly gross. That wasn’t what bothered me though. Instead, it was just that it was such a boring book that I kept wondering how it became a national bestseller. Myriam is a Moroccan-French mother who has left her career of being a lawyer because of the work her two children have put her on. Her husband, Paul, is working day and night trying She drinks and the discomfort of living, the shyness of breathing, all this anguish dissolves in the liquid sips. This book is quite creepy and slightly gross. That wasn’t what bothered me though. Instead, it was just that it was such a boring book that I kept wondering how it became a national bestseller. Myriam is a Moroccan-French mother who has left her career of being a lawyer because of the work her two children have put her on. Her husband, Paul, is working day and night trying to get the financial help they need to pay all these debts they own and to settle in their small apartment to continue being a happy family. The thing is, they aren’t a happy family, which is where the perfect nanny comes in. When Myriam and Paul meet Louise, they love her, instantly. They love her compassion, love, and adoration for their children. They love the way she keeps things tidy and organized, how she reads stories to their children, how she cooks, how she cleans, how she manages to make everything seem perfect, perhaps too perfect. But that’s where Myriam sees something—this nanny seems to be too perfect. When Louise becomes close to Adam and Mila, the two children of Paul and Myriam, she can’t help but feel love and adoration for them, but also jealousy and envy when they’re close to someone else, when they don’t listen to her but listen to others, when they don’t want to be near her but want to be with their parents. Little did these two law workers ever think their perfect nanny would be more than just a nanny. Trigger/content warnings for child abuse and murder. The book literally starts off with a dead baby's body. There is also some child abuse (of course since we know the nanny is the killer) and mentions of threats. Louise does not respond—or hardly—and the nannies understand this silence. They all have shameful secrets. they hide awful memories of bent knees, humiliations, lies. Memories of barely audible voices on the other end of the line, of conversations, cut off, of people who die and are never seen again, of money needed day after day for a sick child who no longer recognizes you and who has forgotten the sound of your voice. Some of them, Louise knows, have stolen—just little thing, almost nothing at all—like a tax levied on the happiness of others. Some conceal their real names. Inspired by the real-life story of the murder of the Krim siblings, we start off the book with a gory scene—a broken body of a baby is put inside a zipping bag as the mother is in a state of shock, as investigators are photographing the scene, as the murderer is being treated, as the little girl is taken to the hospital and convulsing out of state of panic, shock, anger, and pain. We instantly know who did it and how, but the question remains: WHY. The ending only makes everything worse. Not only is is one of the worst endings, but it made everything much more mysterious and suspicious. You can’t help but think there was more involved, maybe even someone else. There were so many unneeded obstacles in this short little novel that all you want to do is skip to the ending because everything else is so unnecessary. Although I’m not sure if the translation of this is very accurate, from French to English (thank you, Sam Taylor), I appreciate how the author started this, which is why it’s so gripping, but she sure knows how to make this very manipulative. Louise and the author both manage to grip you into this and get your attention so you read every little page because you want to find out everything that’s happened and WHY. The book is utterly creepy in the beginning that it has you holding on to every page because of what it’s about to throw at you, but there isn’t anything. We follow the life of all these characters—Louise, Stéphanie, Paul, Myriam, and even some of Mila, but only in the beginning. Truthfully, we only follow Louise and her past. We learn about her past actions, who she was before, her previous love life, and get some chapters about her daughter. We see how she has struggled, but it all made me dislike her. I wanted to understand her, but I couldn't get it through my head. She throws her life at us, showing why we need to feel bad for her. But, as much as I wanted to, I couldn't sympathize with her. Louise is a soldier. She keeps going, come what may, like a mule, like a dog with its legs broken by cruel children. No characters made me feel compassion for them except one—Mila. Mila was a small child but she was old enough to know wrong vs right, good vs evil. I couldn’t blame her for her poor child decisions but then I couldn’t understand how her mother, Myriam, couldn’t see it in her, in her eyes, the eyes who can’t fool her because she is her daughter and a daughter and a mother have one of the most promising and touching relationships. Well, that is if they get along and such. Going into this, I thought there was gonna be more about the relationship between Myriam and her children, but this 200+ page book was obviously not gonna be that, given the fact that it is so small and easily foldable that the obvious statement of the mysterious nanny is there, so we know it’s all about her. As I mentioned Mila, I wish she would have done something about the situation she was in. I couldn’t help but wonder and think if she was gonna do anything, tell her mother at least, about the experiences she had to go through because of Louise. How did she not trust her mother? Why did she stay silent? How could she not be able to say anything? The author just fools you, having yourself question everything happening but never actually finding and figuring out its answer. Children are just like adults. There’s nothing to understand. One thing I couldn’t understand was the connection between the very beginning and the very ending. It was so confusing to me as to WHY the author said Adam is dead. Mila will be too, soon. I guess what I’m trying to say is HOW this came to be. We start off with the murder scene and then just suddenly jump to Myriam apparently buying pastries for her children and nanny, picking out their favorites, and the chapter ends with that one sentence, as if Myriam, the mother, knew this was going to happen? It’s as if the author wants to you suspect the mother and think she killed them and she killed Louise, stabbing the knife in her throat and slitting her wrists, not knowing death but introducing it. You know, I really just wish the author made this more comprehensible, easier to understand, but it was honestly a whole mess. This book is more of a character-driven book than a plot-moving one and I wouldn't even say it's thrilling or suspenseful since we already know what the fuck happened anyways and all we want to know is the reason for it, but instead we end up reading about the love life Louise had, how she doesn't know if her daughter is alive or dead, how she worked at a Children's Day Care, and how she ended up becoming the perfect nanny for Adam and Mila. It's a slow-moving one, with the author throwing one twist after another, but they aren't twists you don't see coming. As a reader who doesn't read thrillers often, I wouldn't call these twists suspenseful. You know they're coming, you see them coming, and they aren't twists that actually keep you anticipating to see what's after. All in all, it isn't as exhilarating as it sounds. The writing is surprisingly mellow—easy to follow, simple, and slow-paced; it’s as if watching a very slow and boring movie or tv show where everything happens right at the beginning only to have it end with a way you never thought of as you realize you wasted your time. It’s not the best and many of the sentences don’t seem to make sense, but it’s intriguing enough. I can't promise I'll ever read another Leïla Slimani book, if and whenever she publishes it, but it really depends, like always. Also, I can't believe this has actually been called the French Gone Girl when they are completely different in every possible way actually. Also, a couple of things to know about the real life story of the Krim siblings: - https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/14/ny... - https://abcnews.go.com/US/trial-start... - https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti... - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPmPD... - Marina Krim speaking at Ortega's sentencing - Kevin Krim speaking at Ortega's sentencing

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ammar

    DNF @35% I tried my best to get into this novel, but couldn’t. The novel opens with a beautiful written crime scene, it’s shocking but written well. Then it started downhill for me.. I couldn’t feel anything for Myriam, Paul, Louise, Pascale, or Milla or Adam It felt dry, perhaps due to it being a translated work that could maybe is brilliant in French , but didn’t read well in English.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    The author says she wanted to write about nannies. You know, the uneasy ambiguity, how they’re an intimate part of your family but they’re an employee, how they’re poor (mostly black, mostly immigrant) and they live in the middle of wealth during working hours, returning each day to the other side of the tracks; how they’re everything and they have your total trust (they look after your children more than you do) and nothing (they can be got rid of just like that). In an interview with The Guardi The author says she wanted to write about nannies. You know, the uneasy ambiguity, how they’re an intimate part of your family but they’re an employee, how they’re poor (mostly black, mostly immigrant) and they live in the middle of wealth during working hours, returning each day to the other side of the tracks; how they’re everything and they have your total trust (they look after your children more than you do) and nothing (they can be got rid of just like that). In an interview with The Guardian Ms Slimani explains that after she wrote 100 pages of stuff about the life of a nanny she was bored, bored, bored. Then – lightbulb moment!!!! She found a horrible story in the papers from New York. It was the murder of two children by their nanny. Happened on 25 October 2012 and the details are here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaths_... She was able to electrify her boring nanny sociology with the closely copied details of this real life case, and they are very closely copied indeed. In fact it’s the precise same story transferred from Manhattan to Paris. Now really, this is kind of calculating, ain’t it. I’m not saying authors haven’t taken real life cases and built crackerjack novels out of them, of course they have, and anyway, when it comes to gruesome crimes, anything an author can imagine has been done out there in the actual world a hundred times over. The quote from the interview is, when she saw the account of the New York murders, Whoah! I thought, I have to start with this. Now the reader is going to be very interested in this very normal family. And we can’t say she was wrong, you must have seen all the rave reviews too. Not to mention the Prix Goncourt and two other Prixes. I’ll bet a movie is on the way as well. So that was some lightbulb. Well, leaving all that aside, does this short sharp you can read it in a day novel work? Well, yes, it does in two really big ways. One, it is really compulsive. It opens with the murders then of course the 200 following pages are all build-up, all a horrible up-piling of psychological tension awaiting the known bloodletting release, so you the reader are like a truffle hound, snuffling out the clues which will explain the crime, as this is not a whodunnit but a why-on-earth-did-she-do-it. Two, it brilliantly delineates the crammed together but world’s apart lives of the rich couple and the nanny and the underlying toxic nature of the relationship which starts rather tentatively, grows closer and more loving by the week and then begins to rot from the inside. This is the soul of Lullaby and why it’s worth reading. The very exact same thing is explored from a male point of view in the well-known novel The White Tiger, a story of a chauffeur in India, perpetually 18 inches apart from his employer, but in reality 400 million light years between them. In that novel too there is an act of murder unleashed by the servant. So Leila Slimani was dead right, about her material and about the way to pitch it. Would I have read an earnest long article about the bad situation of nannies in France? Not a chance. But this 207 page long article about the bad situation of nannies in France kept me turning the pages, turning the pages, and isn’t that the thing we all like to do? 3.5 stars

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    4 slower-building, but gripping, stars to The Perfect Nanny! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ The Perfect Nanny opened with the what. There was a horrific scene to behold in this family’s home. For the entire book, I was on the edge of my seat wondering the why with tons of ambiguity and build-up at a slower-moving pace. Louise seems to be epitome of the perfect nanny, but people aren’t always who and what they appear to be. The side messages on class, privilege, and child rearing in France were interesting. This had 4 slower-building, but gripping, stars to The Perfect Nanny! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ The Perfect Nanny opened with the what. There was a horrific scene to behold in this family’s home. For the entire book, I was on the edge of my seat wondering the why with tons of ambiguity and build-up at a slower-moving pace. Louise seems to be epitome of the perfect nanny, but people aren’t always who and what they appear to be. The side messages on class, privilege, and child rearing in France were interesting. This had all the makings of a five star read. Until the ending. It was a little too loose and open. I was really looking forward to putting my finger on the why for some closure. The Perfect Nanny is a short and quick read. Overall, I found it gripping and engaging and well-worthy of four stars. Thanks to my Traveling Sisters for another great discussion. Please visit Norma and Brenda’s blog for the Traveling Sisters’ review: http://twogirlslostinacouleereading.w... Thank you to Leila Slimani, Penguin Books, and Edelweiss for the complimentary copy.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    What the literal hell!! I had to read a nanny book for a challenge and thought, "Oh the library has this book! This sounds good!" I’m binge reading it because it reeled me in, I’m all like, HOLY EVIL GINGERBREAD MEN, THIS IS GOOD! Then I come to the end!! I turn the page and there were the acknowledgements! I’m like what the hell! I sat here all excited and you gonna end like that! I’m stumped! I was about to toss my tablet, but no, not the tablet. Then I thought, 1 ass Star I’m giving you!!! Th What the literal hell!! I had to read a nanny book for a challenge and thought, "Oh the library has this book! This sounds good!" I’m binge reading it because it reeled me in, I’m all like, HOLY EVIL GINGERBREAD MEN, THIS IS GOOD! Then I come to the end!! I turn the page and there were the acknowledgements! I’m like what the hell! I sat here all excited and you gonna end like that! I’m stumped! I was about to toss my tablet, but no, not the tablet. Then I thought, 1 ass Star I’m giving you!!! Then, fine, 3 stars because you had me going the whole way through the book! You rat bastard!! Happy Reading! Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾 BLOG: https://melissa413readsalot.blogspot....

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bkwmlee

    3.5 stars For me, this book was originally a solid 4 stars – that is, up until the ending (which I’ll get back to later). The opening scene was quite explosive and emotional, hooking me from the start in wanting to find out exactly what happened, why things turned out the way they did, how such a horrific tragedy occurred. We are taken back in time to the very beginning where we are introduced to the Masse family – parents Myriam and Paul who have two adorable kids, toddler Mila and baby Adam – 3.5 stars For me, this book was originally a solid 4 stars – that is, up until the ending (which I’ll get back to later). The opening scene was quite explosive and emotional, hooking me from the start in wanting to find out exactly what happened, why things turned out the way they did, how such a horrific tragedy occurred. We are taken back in time to the very beginning where we are introduced to the Masse family – parents Myriam and Paul who have two adorable kids, toddler Mila and baby Adam – a seemingly ordinary family who decides to hire a nanny due to Myriam resuming her career as a lawyer. Enter Louise, a young woman with a world of experience taking care of kids – not only are the kids charmed by her from the start, she also proves to be efficient in everything she does, whether cooking or cleaning or coming up with activities for the kids. Myriam and Paul are thrilled that they have found the “perfect” nanny to take care of their kids, allowing them to immerse themselves into their careers without worry…as long as Louise is there, everything will be fine – that is the mantra that Paul and Myriam live by as they become increasingly dependent on Louise day-to-day….until one day when they realize everything ISN’T fine after all…. This was a slow-burn, character-driven story that doesn’t really follow the traditional mystery/suspense/thriller format in that we already find out “what happened” and “who did it” within the first few pages, so the big question explored throughout the rest of the narrative was to understand the “why” and “how” – why did the nanny do what she did and how did things get to this point? Originally written and released in France 2 years ago, this book was recently translated into English for the U.S. market – while some of the sentences did come off a little bit oddly structured, I would say that overall, the writing was quite good. The author did a great job building up Louise’s character, revealing her past in bits interspersed with parts of the investigation. As Louise’s relationship with the family slowly unraveled, the sense of creepiness and tension slowly heightened as well, reaching near breaking point – I was absolutely on the edge of my seat and felt like I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough! So I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise then that I was disappointed with the way this book ended, which was very abruptly, with many questions still unanswered, plot points not yet resolved, many loops not yet closed. My first thought when I got to what ended up being the last page was that perhaps something happened to my copy of the ARC when I downloaded and perhaps some pages went missing, so I immediately went back and re-downloaded the book – in all formats available – and checked each one to see if the last section was the same….when I found out they were and the story truly did end at the point it did, I was actually quite upset, as I honestly felt like I’d just been played. It was akin to me waiting all season to finally watch that finale episode of my favorite TV show where everything will finally be revealed after building up the suspense for months, with my eyes glued to the TV set in eager anticipation, only to find out the finale was pre-empted last minute with no re-scheduled airing date planned (this is actually something that happened to be me before, way back in the day…). I guess in a way, the ending ruined the book for me, as I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to be left hanging – when I’m reading a book (or watching a TV series or a movie), I always need to have some type of closure, some indication that the story arc has ended…even if the intention is to continue with the story as a series with the same characters at a later point, this particular story needs to end first. I didn’t get that with this book and unfortunately, it ended up leaving a bitter taste in my mouth as a result. Aside from the issues with the ending, this was an otherwise solid read that I actually do recommend for its compelling story and riveting characters. The author is obviously a very talented writer and can craft a truly captivating story. I would probably still read other books by this author but of course while crossing my fingers hoping that those endings don’t turn out like this one did… Received ARC from Penguin Group via Edelweiss

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    Of course there is no such thing as a perfect nanny. And even though the ending of the book is given away on the very first page, I’m going to hide it in a spoiler. (view spoiler)[ The opening page is the police scene – the Nanny has stabbed both children to death. (hide spoiler)] The story is as much about imperfect employers as it is about perfect nannies. Let me rephrase that – terrible employers. Both the young man and young woman who hire the Nanny to look after their two pre-school childre Of course there is no such thing as a perfect nanny. And even though the ending of the book is given away on the very first page, I’m going to hide it in a spoiler. (view spoiler)[ The opening page is the police scene – the Nanny has stabbed both children to death. (hide spoiler)] The story is as much about imperfect employers as it is about perfect nannies. Let me rephrase that – terrible employers. Both the young man and young woman who hire the Nanny to look after their two pre-school children are married to their jobs. She’s a high-powered lawyer looking to make partner early; he’s a music producer who works with top-ten recording artists. An entire work week can go by without the mother seeing her children awake – she simply rubs their arms and kisses them while they are asleep. The go-getters take advantage of the Nanny. They hired her and paid her just to be a nanny – and she’s WONDERFUL, but it’s in her nature to do everything, so she cooks and cleans and does laundry PERFECTLY. So they got a cook and laundress and maid for free. When a letter comes addressed to the husband about her debts, he is furious at the Nanny. “Take care of this immediately” but he doesn’t offer her a nickel extra. The husband says at one point: “She’s so perfect, so delicate, that sometimes it sickens me…” The Nanny is on such a low-lying socio-economic plane below them that they never ask where she lives, who her friends are, what she does for the few hours a week when she’s not at their house. Answers: she lives in a one-room hole; she has no friends; she dreams of her work at their house. (We do learn about her past life – she had a husband and daughter.) The only extra they ever do for her is to take her with them on vacation in Greece (so she can watch the kids of course). The Nanny can’t imagine life without her ‘family’ and despairs of what will happen to her when both children start school and the couple no longer needs her. There’s some good writing: “You know what two words parents say most often to their children these days? ‘Hurry up!’ ” “Parks, on winter afternoons, are haunted by vagabonds, drifters, tramps, the elderly and unemployed, the sick, the vulnerable. Those who do not work, who produce nothing.” I liked the story. It’s a straight-forward plot with good writing and only snippets of dialogue. The novel won France’s Prix Goncourt in 2016. The title is confusing because it was published as Chanson Douce (Sweet Song) in France and as Lullaby in the UK. The author, born in 1981, grew up in Morocco to a Moroccan father and French mother. She grew up in a French-speaking family and attended French schools. She left Morocco for university in Paris when she was 17.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jaidee

    5 "the forgotten, the forlorn, the enraged, the desperate" stars !!! 7th Favorite Read of 2019 Award Addendum: I forgot to mention in my original review that I was compelled to read this because GR friend Roger B. wrote a glowing review of the novel read in French. Thanks so much Roger :) Louise is a middle aged nanny who has disintegrated many times in her life. She is poor, she is immature, she is immaculate and she is severely damaged. She loves with a ferocity and is tossed aside by middle c 5 "the forgotten, the forlorn, the enraged, the desperate" stars !!! 7th Favorite Read of 2019 Award Addendum: I forgot to mention in my original review that I was compelled to read this because GR friend Roger B. wrote a glowing review of the novel read in French. Thanks so much Roger :) Louise is a middle aged nanny who has disintegrated many times in her life. She is poor, she is immature, she is immaculate and she is severely damaged. She loves with a ferocity and is tossed aside by middle class society. Desperation grows and she has rarely had the experience of belonging to the living. Louise is no martyr, though. She can be hateful, cruel and petty. As pretty as a starlet, as dour as a witch and as pure as the Madonna. Who is Louise ? How can a white French woman sink so low ? She is admired and maligned. She is desired and humiliated. She does not understand herself or others. She knows only desperation and at times becomes psychotically depressed. We see Louise through the eyes of others. Her bosses who she both desires and despises. The children who she both smothers yet inflicts small cruelties. The neighbor, the landlord, the boyfriend. They all see what they want to see....ignoring her loneliness, her poverty, her next disintegration. I read this with a morbid fascination, a sadness, an anger. How many times could urban tragedies be prevented if we intervene not just with a kind word but real action, and small sacrifice ? Ms. Slimani has written an incredibly interesting and complex story with a character that I will never forget. Imagine Tennessee Williams heroines cross pollinating with Eileen. The language is both simple yet sharp. Vignettes that make you both afraid and sad. The Perfect Nanny will haunt me for a very long time.

  13. 5 out of 5

    JanB

    The story opens with the horrific description of the killing of two children by their nanny. Then the novel travels back in time to the events that led up to that day. We know what happens but what we don't know is the why. There are no easy answers, and this book doesn't offer them. It was inspired by the true case of the nanny who killed two children in NYC in 2012, and some aspects of the crime are eerily similar. Not knowing the why makes it all the more horrific. How can the perfect nanny, The story opens with the horrific description of the killing of two children by their nanny. Then the novel travels back in time to the events that led up to that day. We know what happens but what we don't know is the why. There are no easy answers, and this book doesn't offer them. It was inspired by the true case of the nanny who killed two children in NYC in 2012, and some aspects of the crime are eerily similar. Not knowing the why makes it all the more horrific. How can the perfect nanny, who is the envy of all your friends, suddenly snap? The relationship between the family and nanny is a complicated one. Is she family, friend, or is the relationship simply employer/employee? There's an inequality in the relationship, yet there's also an intimacy with this person knowing the intimate details of your life and your children's. What happens when cracks begin to appear in this perfection? Although a crime was committed, this is not a thriller or a crime novel. It is a character study and a social commentary. The cover, with the nanny’s face hidden, is brilliant. I see it as a cautionary tale of class and privilege, and how easy it is to allow someone else to take over more and more of the domestic duties of running a household, yet not truly seeing them as an individual. The story is told in the third person with a spare prose that leaves the reader feeling a bit detached, which adds to the sinister mood and mounting dread. There are warning signs that all was not well with the nanny psychologically, and I couldn’t help but wonder if just one person had intervened if things would have turned out differently. * edited to add: if you like your books tied up in the end with every mystery solved, this isn't the book for you. Just like in the real life case this is based upon, much is not known *this was a traveling sister read, which inspired a great discussion. You can find The Sister's blog at: https://twogirlslostinacouleereading....

  14. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    I was curious about this book....winner of the Goncourt Prize since last year. But not enough to pay for it. I waited - patiently- for my library-ebook turn. Long waitlist. I actually like the book cover. It’s eye-catching. I use to wear Peter Pan collars - AS A CHILD.... But if a nanny showed up for an interview dressed in one to watch my kids...my eyebrows would raise. What I didn’t know — is that this story was based on a true story. This is new information to me....which makes this book all th I was curious about this book....winner of the Goncourt Prize since last year. But not enough to pay for it. I waited - patiently- for my library-ebook turn. Long waitlist. I actually like the book cover. It’s eye-catching. I use to wear Peter Pan collars - AS A CHILD.... But if a nanny showed up for an interview dressed in one to watch my kids...my eyebrows would raise. What I didn’t know — is that this story was based on a true story. This is new information to me....which makes this book all the more horrific and sad. I wondered if this was going to be like the movie “The Hand That Rocks Cradle” ... but ‘that’ movie wouldn’t win a French prestigious award. So do you see my curiosity? It isn’t by the way. I’m still not sure why this book ‘did’ win such a high standing award - but the writing ‘is’ good. Leila Slimani’s style reminds me of the first novel I read by Emily St. John Mandel called “Last Night In Montreal”. Very ‘clean’ writing - also eerie and puzzling. As readers, we definitely try to understand why “The Perfect Nanny”, Louise murdered the children? Louise keeps the house impeccably obsessively clean- and the children ‘mostly’ happily spoiled. When the book ends - do we understand anything more than in the beginning? To me - that’s the question. Yes - there are disturbing signs of ‘things’ not right..but do we really know ‘why’ this devastating crime happened? There was one line in this book that Louise says that kinda represents this entire book to me.... and it’s very sad: “You shouldn’t try to understand everything. Children are just like adults. There’s nothing to understand”.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Holly B

    Buddy read with Laurie from Cozynookbks. You will learn how the story ends on the first page of the novel. And my stomach was in knots as I read it. Told in third person from different view points, we learn how the unspeakable ending unfolded. So we are basically going back and learning just what transpired before the tragedy. The author writes in a poetic way using descriptions that I could visualize, smell and emotionally react too. It was creepy at times with a hint of the dread to come. Myriam Buddy read with Laurie from Cozynookbks. You will learn how the story ends on the first page of the novel. And my stomach was in knots as I read it. Told in third person from different view points, we learn how the unspeakable ending unfolded. So we are basically going back and learning just what transpired before the tragedy. The author writes in a poetic way using descriptions that I could visualize, smell and emotionally react too. It was creepy at times with a hint of the dread to come. Myriam and Paul are the parents of two young children. They are living in a flat in Paris and Myriam makes the decision to resume her career and becomes a criminal defense lawyer (ironically). They think they have found a "perfect" nanny named Louise. They hire her and she immediately impresses them by doing such a great job taking care of the kids, cleaning and even cooking. Louise has created a home of peace and harmony, but as we begin to learn of her past (through flashbacks of her former life) and we see disturbing scenes. She begins to do very strange things that upset Myriam and Paul, but they have grown to depend on her help. As the story progresses, you begin to see what the parents do not and the end may leave you with more questions than answers. I'll be interested in reading more from this author as I enjoyed her writing style. I thought it was effective in giving this story a very eerie tone. I will say that I was left feeling heartbroken and yearning to know the real truth.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chandra Claypool (WhereTheReaderGrows)

    Myriam gave up her career when she had her two children with her husband, Paul. Soon she found herself resenting her children and her husband and needed more from her life. Given the opportunity to go back to law, she took it. With this decision, came the choice to hire a nanny to take care of the children. Enter Louise, who seems perfect! The children love her and as time goes by, they want for nothing. Meals are made, the living space is cleaned, the children are happy... but soon resentment, Myriam gave up her career when she had her two children with her husband, Paul. Soon she found herself resenting her children and her husband and needed more from her life. Given the opportunity to go back to law, she took it. With this decision, came the choice to hire a nanny to take care of the children. Enter Louise, who seems perfect! The children love her and as time goes by, they want for nothing. Meals are made, the living space is cleaned, the children are happy... but soon resentment, jealous and anger starts to build... I am so torn with this novel. The opening lines "The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds." really popped and made me think we were going into a novel where we find out how this tragedy occurred. Instead we're taken on a character study. A journey into the life of a nanny who is often overlooked, underappreciated and with little self esteem. We find a woman whose sole purpose in life is to take care of others and makes that her entire world, often neglecting herself in the process. We get inside her head, her past with her own family, her past nanny history, and a little bit of explaining of why she acts the way that she does. Alongside that we get a little bit into Myriam's mind as well. Her issues with trying to be a full time mother, her accomplishments as a lawyer, her growing unease with Louise in the house. Then we are presented with various random chapters of other people that are involved in Louise's life. The problem is, nothing is ever fully fleshed out. You realize early on that the book is heading in a direction to reveal why Louis took the actions that she did. The opening pages tell you she killed the children. Now we need to know why. It just never got there. The ending was disappointing. Maybe the author meant for there to be no resolve, which is fine - sometimes I don't mind this.. but it didn't get enough meat and potatoes throughout for me to feel satisfied. The writing is fantastic, however. My favorite parts of this novel is the author's prose, with the only exception being that sometimes the chapters became choppy with whose point of view we were supposed to be in. I'm not sure if that is lost in the translation of the novel or not. Either way, you definitely cannot take away from her talent. I can understand why she won the Goncourt award. On a final note, putting a quote from The Telegraph as "Is The Perfect Nanny the next Gone Girl? ...." as the first line of the synopsis on Goodreads and Amazon gives you a false feel for what this book is going to be.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shirley Revill

    OMG. The story begins with the most horrific start to a story that I have ever read. One child is dead and another child is fighting for her life. As the story progresses we start to try to understand what happened in the lives of all who are involved to get to this point. Who really knows just when the cracks start to appear. When does the madness start and what is the point that Louise goes over the edge. When Myriam decides to return to work she realises that she needs a nanny. She is a brilli OMG. The story begins with the most horrific start to a story that I have ever read. One child is dead and another child is fighting for her life. As the story progresses we start to try to understand what happened in the lives of all who are involved to get to this point. Who really knows just when the cracks start to appear. When does the madness start and what is the point that Louise goes over the edge. When Myriam decides to return to work she realises that she needs a nanny. She is a brilliant criminal defense lawyer and is missing her job. All that Myriam and her husband needs to do is to find someone they can trust to look after their children. After a couple of interviews along comes Louise and Myriam can't believe what a treasure they have found. Not only does Louise look after the children she also cooks the meals and cleans the house. When Louise is told she only has to look after the children Louise always insists that it's no trouble. In fact nothing is ever too much trouble for Louise. After listening to the start of this audiobook I was compelled to listen to to the end to see how this chilling tale unfolded. I really enjoyed listening to the book because I felt that the narration really added to the story. The very first time I have read/listened to a book by this author and I am looking forward to other books in the future.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dem

    A stunning, shocking and harrowing read, a terrific character study and an extremely well written psychological thriller that is disburbing but very readable. I very nearly passed up on this book because of its cover and title and am so glad I gave it a chance as this turned out to be exactly the type of psychological thriller that I love to read. When Miriam decides to return to work her husband interviews a nanny for their young children. They hire what they assume is the Nanny of their drea A stunning, shocking and harrowing read, a terrific character study and an extremely well written psychological thriller that is disburbing but very readable. I very nearly passed up on this book because of its cover and title and am so glad I gave it a chance as this turned out to be exactly the type of psychological thriller that I love to read. When Miriam decides to return to work her husband interviews a nanny for their young children. They hire what they assume is the Nanny of their dreams until slowly things change within their household and the nanny of their dreams turns into every parents worst nightmare. While this sound like your typical Nanny from hell story, it isn't your run of the mill who-dunnit thriller but more a why-dunnit and a terrific character study to boot. A book where the who dunnit is revealed in the very first chapter and the rest of the book tackles the disturbing reasons why. This is a very short read at 207 pages and yet it may as well have been 500 pages for the length of time it took me to read it, It was so well written and so vivid that I just savoured every sentence and took my time with this one. It was interesting to study the nanny/family relationship and how easy it is to over step boundaries and take advantage on both sides and what can appear as dutiful and caring can soon become obsessive and controlling. I can see why this book is getting mixed reviews as some readers love it and other readers are disappointed with the book and its conclusion. I think when books reveal the who dunnit in the very first chapter the suspense can be taken away for some readers but for me this book was all about the brilliant character study of the two female characters and what they revealed about each other. I did have an issue with (view spoiler)[ The Nanny's lack of finances and why she was so poor as she was earring a decent wage and only had herself to keep and I am not sure if I missed something early on in the novel. Perhaps some of my more observant goodread friends can enlighten me. (hide spoiler)] I think readers who enjoy character driven novels will enjoy this one as it is clever and a compelling read and was right up my street.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Helene Jeppesen

    3.5 stars. This book starts out with a bang. The very first chapter tells us of two children who have been murdered in their nursery, as well as their nurse who is the main suspect and who's found in a coma. The rest of a book is a flashback on what led up to this horrific event. We get into depth with the parent role and how hard it can be to juggle to children and remain insane. We also get to know the children better as well as Louise, the nanny that the parents decide to hide. Louise is basi 3.5 stars. This book starts out with a bang. The very first chapter tells us of two children who have been murdered in their nursery, as well as their nurse who is the main suspect and who's found in a coma. The rest of a book is a flashback on what led up to this horrific event. We get into depth with the parent role and how hard it can be to juggle to children and remain insane. We also get to know the children better as well as Louise, the nanny that the parents decide to hide. Louise is basically the perfect nanny! Besides from taking care of the two children at any time of the day, she does the laundry, tidies the apartment and cooks dinner for everyone. However, the very first chapter mentioned above lets us know that Louise isn't as perfect as it might seem, after all. I liked how this book plays with shifts in roles (I won't go into spoilers). I also loved how it has an emphasis on the characters instead of on the actual crime. The writing I found to be a bit too fragmented and at times confusing for my taste (I read it in its original language, French), but it wasn't a problem at all to read, and I grew to really like this family as well as Louise. Definitely an intriguing read that I recommend, and I see why a lot of people like it and why it won the prestigeful Prix Goncourt in France.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Felicia

    After reviewing the latest novel by Leila Slimani titled Adèle back in September, I immediately went on the search for her English debut, The Perfect Nanny. I have read both books in one sitting NEVER EVER JUDGE A BOOK BY IT'S TITLE!! I'm sure most readers would hesitate in picking up this book thinking they are going to find the tired story of the crazy nanny that inevitably gets jealous and tries to take over the life of her employer. But I knew this wouldn't be the case. Anybody that wrote the After reviewing the latest novel by Leila Slimani titled Adèle back in September, I immediately went on the search for her English debut, The Perfect Nanny. I have read both books in one sitting NEVER EVER JUDGE A BOOK BY IT'S TITLE!! I'm sure most readers would hesitate in picking up this book thinking they are going to find the tired story of the crazy nanny that inevitably gets jealous and tries to take over the life of her employer. But I knew this wouldn't be the case. Anybody that wrote the book Adèle couldn't possibly write something so banal. And Slimani did not disappoint. This story opens up with the scene of a murder of two children at the hands of their nanny, Louise. What follows is a dark descent into the mind of Louise as she plummets off the cliff of psychosis. Both of Slimani's novels thus far have delved into the darkest of devastations on both the sufferers of mental illness and to those around them in a way I've yet to experience from another author. There are no twists or thrills or happy endings. This book is a master class character study on the evil that lurks in man. It's dark, it's disturbing and it's unforgettable.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gabby

    First book of 2019 is finished, and unfortunately it was a total snooze fest. This is a "thriller" that starts off with an intense scene where you discover that the nanny has killed the two kids she is watching, and then the rest of the book is showing all the lead up to that... but my god this book is so freaking boring. If it wasn't for that promising first chapter I would have probably DNF'ed this and I almost wish I did because it never went anywhere. I also disliked the writing style, even First book of 2019 is finished, and unfortunately it was a total snooze fest. This is a "thriller" that starts off with an intense scene where you discover that the nanny has killed the two kids she is watching, and then the rest of the book is showing all the lead up to that... but my god this book is so freaking boring. If it wasn't for that promising first chapter I would have probably DNF'ed this and I almost wish I did because it never went anywhere. I also disliked the writing style, even though this book was so short it felt so dense because there was barely any dialogue and it was all huge chunks of descriptions after descriptions and... I'm sad that the first book I picked up this year sucked but here we are. This book kind of reminded me of the thriller Looker in the way that it feels like the story is going somewhere but it just doesn't and it's a boring story that is really short but feels so much longer because of how boring it is.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This novel suffers a bit from reverse IanMcEwanism. While he more often than not builds an interesting storyline and trashes the plot on the last pages, this story is completely destroyed in the first chapter, and then the reader is left with a narrative that could have been amazing, had it not been used to such a drastic conclusion turned prelude. The issues: racism, social justice, vulnerability, loneliness, parenthood in modern Paris society, difficulties to define boundaries between an employ This novel suffers a bit from reverse IanMcEwanism. While he more often than not builds an interesting storyline and trashes the plot on the last pages, this story is completely destroyed in the first chapter, and then the reader is left with a narrative that could have been amazing, had it not been used to such a drastic conclusion turned prelude. The issues: racism, social justice, vulnerability, loneliness, parenthood in modern Paris society, difficulties to define boundaries between an employee and employers if the work concerns the raising of the employers' children. These are important, immensely relevant questions, and Leila Slimani writes about them in beautiful, clear French. She could have pulled off a masterpiece if she hadn't been too tempted by that annoying modern-day Mephistopheles: sensationalism created by drastic and graphic violence. Nanny goes Medea? Greek tragedy requires a more metaphorical approach though, not a hyper-realistic description of contemporary Paris suburban life. Had she not been Medea, the main character could have made a statement about all those lost, lonely souls out there. As it is, Louise loses her voice in a flood of blood. No pity, just terror and disgust. Three stars for the beautiful prose and accurate description of modern-day parenting and relationship issues. None for the murders.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    “The Perfect Nanny” throws out conventions in the psychological suspense genre. Leila Slimani plays all of her cards in the very first line of the novel: “The baby is dead”. Slimani chooses to have the reader focus on the “how” and “why” rather than “what happened” or “who did it”. Knowing the outcome of the story actually made the book that much more interesting reading it. The book starts with the graphic description of a child being murdered by the family’s nanny. In one of the most gruesome “The Perfect Nanny” throws out conventions in the psychological suspense genre. Leila Slimani plays all of her cards in the very first line of the novel: “The baby is dead”. Slimani chooses to have the reader focus on the “how” and “why” rather than “what happened” or “who did it”. Knowing the outcome of the story actually made the book that much more interesting reading it. The book starts with the graphic description of a child being murdered by the family’s nanny. In one of the most gruesome opening paragraphs I’ve ever read, Slimani doesn’t hold back any punches while demanding the reader's attention. After the first chapter, the story backtracks and the reader is thrown into the world of Paul and Myriam, a couple living in Paris. Myriam is bored with being a stay at home mom and wants to start working again. They come up with the idea to hire a nanny, they hire Louise, and the children really like her. Slimani is able to ratchet up the tension throughout the entire book, even though readers know the inevitable outcome. Most of the chapters follow the nanny (Louise) and the mother (Myriam). It was interesting following the story from two different perspectives. One of a mother who’s trying to find happiness outside of her children and the other from the perspective of someone who’s trying to find happiness being a part of someone else’s family. The novel does a great job of capturing both perspectives. Slimani touches on themes of class, mental health, and the loneliness of being a parent, but the most interesting part of the novel was the relationship between the family and the nanny. Due to the nature of their relationship, the family completely trusts her. She cooks, she cleans, and she plays with the children. She cements herself as part of the family, but almost in an anonymous way. On the surface everything seems “perfect”, but because the nanny is just a peripheral part of the family, Paul and Myriam never really get to know her on a deep level. “The Perfect Nanny” is an interesting character study that will definitely have readers asking “why” and “how”. However, some readers may be disappointed by the lack of answers. While we can speculate about why people do terrible things, the answers frequently leave us confused and disorientated. Sometimes it’s impossible to apply order to a world full of chaos.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Creepy. Chilling. Disturbing. A contemporary novel set in France, Paul and Myriam believe they have found the perfect person to take care of their young children, Mila and Adam. As we see in the beginning of the story, things end tragically, but the author takes readers on a journey to the "before". As the obsession builds, snippets from passersbys try to fill in the gaps of what led to the fateful events. Although a difficult read, I was unable to put it down and read it in one sitting. Creepy. Chilling. Disturbing. A contemporary novel set in France, Paul and Myriam believe they have found the perfect person to take care of their young children, Mila and Adam. As we see in the beginning of the story, things end tragically, but the author takes readers on a journey to the "before". As the obsession builds, snippets from passersbys try to fill in the gaps of what led to the fateful events. Although a difficult read, I was unable to put it down and read it in one sitting.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Emily B

    The perfect nanny is a very good character study that is wonderfully written however it is not a thriller as described on the front cover. It was easy to read and flowed well. I probably could have read it all in one go if given the time to do so. Most of the way through I thought it was going to be a 5 star read. However the ending was slightly disappointing as it did not explain anything. I think this was deliberate however this left me feeling a little unsatisfied.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Meike

    No wonder Slimani hit a nerve and won the Prix Goncourt with this book: She touches on some very inconvenient truths and common societal problems that seem extremely hard to resolve. "Lullaby" talks about gender roles, modern servants, the class system, marital rivalry, and loneliness (and not in the cutesie Eleanor Oliphant kind-of-way) in modern France. It does not come as a surprise that French President Emmanuel Macron chose Slimani as his personal representative for the promotion of French No wonder Slimani hit a nerve and won the Prix Goncourt with this book: She touches on some very inconvenient truths and common societal problems that seem extremely hard to resolve. "Lullaby" talks about gender roles, modern servants, the class system, marital rivalry, and loneliness (and not in the cutesie Eleanor Oliphant kind-of-way) in modern France. It does not come as a surprise that French President Emmanuel Macron chose Slimani as his personal representative for the promotion of French language and culture: The French-Maroccan writer has done her homework on intersectionality and societal challenges in today's France, and she mirrors that in her work (which can also be seen in her journalistic writing). This story opens with the outcome and unfolds by explaining how it happened: Louise, the nanny of the Massé family, has killed the two young children she was hired to watch. Myriam and Paul Massé had employed Louise after Myriam decided to go back to her job as a lawyer; before that, she had felt inadequate as she witnessed the career of her husband advance from her perspective as a stay-at-home mom. Myriam and Paul rely more and more on Louise and besides the pressure many working parents (especially mothers) feel - including the pressure to always be happy about their roles -, they also live with the classic ambiguities that come with employing personnel in one's own household: While they pretend that Louise belongs to the family, they know very well that she doesn't. The symapthy they feel for the much poorer woman with lower status is sometimes condescending, the benefits she receives (like a holiday with the family) self-serving, and Louise's obvious troubles are mostly perceived as a nuisance, the dysfunctionality of a household servant - but then again, isn't she exactly that? I was fascinated how Slimani often portrayed Louise's role as one between child and grown-up: Like a kid's, Louise's choices are limited, she has to obey to the parents of the kids she is watching, and due to her circumstances, she has never learnt to adequately adress her needs and demands. She is trapped in her own powerlessness that can easily tip over into rage. The effect of the story itself is heightened by the language Slimani chooses and that she herself described as "clinical". I am not going to spoil the details, but Slimani ventures into the nanny's family history and living circumstances to enlighten her motives and actions (without excusing them, of course), and I found it very well done. To see through the eyes of this murderess is a truly claustrophobic experience. Another aspect that is brought up in this context is race: On the playground, Louise is the only non-immigrant nanny. In the United States, the exploration of the white underclass through literature has gained momentum, especially since President Racist starting reviving the ghosts of the past. That's exactly what Slimani is doing here, and she is taking an intersectional approach. The outcome is very thought-provoking. If you want to know more about Slimani and the book, here's an interesting interview with her: https://monocle.com/radio/shows/meet-...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Diana | Book of Secrets

    3.5 Stars → Ugh, from the very beginning, this book was chilling. Unsettling. It's not a typical thriller, more character-driven, maybe a character study of sorts. None of the characters were likable, but they were fascinating. A young Parisian couple, Myriam and Paul, hire Louise as a nanny for their two small children. With a good reference from her previous employer, and being somewhat desperate to find childcare, they quickly welcome Louise into their lives. Oh, dear. Louise seems perfect on 3.5 Stars → Ugh, from the very beginning, this book was chilling. Unsettling. It's not a typical thriller, more character-driven, maybe a character study of sorts. None of the characters were likable, but they were fascinating. A young Parisian couple, Myriam and Paul, hire Louise as a nanny for their two small children. With a good reference from her previous employer, and being somewhat desperate to find childcare, they quickly welcome Louise into their lives. Oh, dear. Louise seems perfect on the outside, but she has hidden issues, which are slowly reveled as the story progresses. While reading this book, I felt like I was watching the characters from a distance rather than being a part of the story. I wonder if it's because this is the English translation from French, or was that the intent. The writing was good...just had a distant feel. The ending, well, I wanted more. Too many questions unanswered.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Roger Brunyate

    The Nanny Birdlike, blonde Louise, hardly bigger than a girl herself, is a magician with children. At her interview with the busy Massé parents in their Paris apartment, she gently takes the squalling baby Adam from his father's arms, calming him instantly, and entices the toddler Mila out of hiding by pretending that she is a princess who has disappeared. Myriam, the children's mother, returns from her first day back at work as an advocate to find that Louise has totally tidied the cramped apart The Nanny Birdlike, blonde Louise, hardly bigger than a girl herself, is a magician with children. At her interview with the busy Massé parents in their Paris apartment, she gently takes the squalling baby Adam from his father's arms, calming him instantly, and entices the toddler Mila out of hiding by pretending that she is a princess who has disappeared. Myriam, the children's mother, returns from her first day back at work as an advocate to find that Louise has totally tidied the cramped apartment, seemingly doubling it in size. When the nanny also shows her abilities as a cook, the father, Paul, who manages and records popular musicians, proudly invites friends and colleagues to enjoy the dinners prepared by their perfect nanny. Within weeks, Louise has become one of the family. It seems a miracle. But Leïla Slimani opens her book with the shocking words: "Le bébé est mort." The baby dead, the girl fatally wounded, the apartment bathroom a scene of carnage, the father away on business, the mother in shock. At first, it seems like a crime novel, working backwards to enable us to solve, or at least to understand, the murders. Yet Slimani is more subtle than that. Over the three or four years when Louise is working for the Massés—with occasional flashbacks to her previous employments, her life with her late husband, and troubles with her own daughter—the author paints a complex but instantly recognizable picture of contemporary social life. Unlike a mystery novel, there are few dark secrets waiting to be discovered, simply a developing subtext of class and privilege. Louise is no murderess in waiting, but a rather sad woman who neglects her own life to live vicariously through the perfect care of her charges. The Massés are struggling young professionals, living in the smallest apartment in their building. When they share their lives with Louise, even taking her on holiday to the Greek Islands, their affection is genuine. Leïla Slimani was born in Morocco in 1981, and came to France at the age of 17. Chanson douce, her second novel, won her the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 2016; it became an instant best-seller in France and awaits translation here.* Race indeed plays a role in the subtext of class in the book, but it is a measure of the author's subtlety that she treats it only indirectly. It is Myriam, the rising lawyer, who is the Arabic-speaking immigrant; if there is any racism in the book, it is in her reluctance to hire a North African nanny who would seek a false sisterhood with her on grounds of language. But Louise is white. Her friend Wafa, indeed, is an undocumented immigrant, but she plays a minor role in the plot. Slimani's message is that life can deal a rotten hand to anyone; there is no need to look only to obvious factors to explain it. Myriam, defending an accused murderer in the course of her work, tells him: "We have to prove that you, you also are a victim." The case has nothing to do with the main plot, but everything to do with Slimani's theme. For when she is done, that is precisely how we see Louise: as a victim—not of others, but of life itself. ====== * The title, literally “Sweet Song,” was translated in Britain as Lullaby; an American edition will be has been issued early in 2018 as The Perfect Nanny. There is an excellent article by Lauren Collins in the 1/1/2018 New Yorker about Slimani and her two novels; for link, see comment #5. Perhaps because she is the mother of young children herself, Collins sees far more of the danger and daring of the novel than I could as an elderly man. It makes me a little ashamed that I gave the book only four stars, but I won’t change that now.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    A nanny kills the two kids of a young Parisian couple – but why? Lullaby has a compelling premise and discovering what warped, demented reason the nanny could possibly have for doing something so heinous kept me turning the pages. Except we never really find out. You could read that opening scene showing the immediate aftermath of the killings, leave it there and still have the same impression as someone who reads the whole thing! The following 200 pages in Leila Slimani’s Prix Goncourt-winning b A nanny kills the two kids of a young Parisian couple – but why? Lullaby has a compelling premise and discovering what warped, demented reason the nanny could possibly have for doing something so heinous kept me turning the pages. Except we never really find out. You could read that opening scene showing the immediate aftermath of the killings, leave it there and still have the same impression as someone who reads the whole thing! The following 200 pages in Leila Slimani’s Prix Goncourt-winning book bizarrely doesn’t build on that scene any further. And it’s why I found myself disliking the novel more and more as it went on. There’s no real story. Paul and Myriam hire Louise to look after their little ones, Mila and Adam, while they pursue their careers. We learn a bit about Louise’s sad life – her wayward daughter, her deadbeat husband who saddles her with debt and the broken-down studio flat she lives in – but it’s barely a story and definitely not an entertaining one at that. So I hoped, in lieu, there’d be strong character work and/or psychological insight into the mind of a child-killer – but no, not even that either! Why did this win France’s most prestigious literary prize?! The characters are flat and unremarkable, Louise is a little odd but there’s no real indication for her actions which come out of nowhere in the final act and don’t make sense – couldn’t she just get another job as nanny for another family? It’s not badly written, it’s an accessible, quick read, and the premise is compelling but ultimately it doesn’t live up to it and the lack of any great story, characters or insight made Lullaby a disappointing and unsatisfying book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Emer (A Little Haze)

    I only recently heard of Leïla Slimani when French president Emmanuel Macron gave her the position of Francophone affairs minister. The Morocco-born author won the prestigious Prix Goncourt literary award for her second novel, Chanson douce, which has just now been translated into English and given the title Lullaby. It is known as The Perfect Nanny in the USA. So I had to read this novel for myself and find out if I could believe the hype.... And I'm pleased to say that this absolutely lives up I only recently heard of Leïla Slimani when French president Emmanuel Macron gave her the position of Francophone affairs minister. The Morocco-born author won the prestigious Prix Goncourt literary award for her second novel, Chanson douce, which has just now been translated into English and given the title Lullaby. It is known as The Perfect Nanny in the USA. So I had to read this novel for myself and find out if I could believe the hype.... And I'm pleased to say that this absolutely lives up to the hype!!! It is such an intelligently written book with such an insidious core that can only leave the reader completely chilled. From the opening page we learn that children have been murdered by their nanny and the book then steps back in time to see how this horrific event unfolds. And not only is this a gripping thriller it is also a book with a great social commentary on how society views mothers, both stay at home and working, and it subtly explores racial tensions too. And impressively all this is achieved in such a short space of time without seeming rushed or incomplete; this is a novel barely over 200 pages long! I really don't want to say any more about the details of the plot as everything is so perfectly paced in this book with each detail and reveal carefully placed in the storyline for the maximum chilling effect. And therefore I would not wish to taint the reading experience for anyone who wishes to read this by giving spoilers. four stars "In that room she lost all notion of time. She felt lost, crazed. The whole world had forgotten her. She would sleep for hours and wake up swollen-eyed, her head aching, despite the cold that seethed through the room. She only went out when she absolutely had to, when her hunger became too painful to ignore. She walked in the street as if it were cinema set and she were not there, and invisible spectator to the movements of mankind. Everyone seemed to have somewhere to go."

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