When Myriam, a mother and brilliant French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work, she and her husband are forced to look for a caretaker for their two young children. They are thrilled to find Louise: the perfect nanny right from the start. Louise sings to the children, cleans the family’s beautiful apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late whenever asked, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on each other, jealousy, resentment, and frustrations mount, shattering the idyllic tableau.
Author: Leila Slimani
My Rating: 4.5/5
My Favourite Quote: “Her face is like a peaceful sea, its depths suspected by no one.”
When I first picked up this book I was a bit wary. While I don’t mind dark subject matter in my reading, I was worried that it might be a bit too gratuitous and sensational. I hope it’s not a spoiler to say that after reading the first page my worries seemed to have come true. But, I am happy to report that my first impression was not correct, and that I loved this book!
This book is a deeply psychological and claustrophobic look at the life of a family. After the first few pages it is very clear how to book will end, but this book is about the character’s motivations not the actual ending.
This book flits back and forth mostly from the Mother’s perspective, and the Nanny’s point of view, though we do get a few other looks into the minds of different characters. What is absolutely wonderful about this book is the amount of depth and believable contradictions each character portrays.
We follow Myriam who loves her children, and doting on them but also feels the need to escape. She struggles with wanting to be a stay at home parent while also being incredibly career motivated at the same time. We see her perspective on both of these topics shift multiple times in such a believable way. I haven’t ever read a book that captures the struggle between different desires and the mental work that we go through convincing ourselves that the decisions we make are the right ones.
As we follow the Nanny’s perspective we see a pretty closed off and eerie character. I was once again worried that she as the antagonist of the novel would be less dynamic, again I am happy to have been proven wrong. Every odd thing that she does is so strange but fairly innocuous, so it is very believable that certain troubling signs would have been brushed off.
This book is incredible in that it isn’t really driven by a plot. We know the ending by the first page of the book. The narrative is driven, very compellingly I may add, by following the growing tension between the characters and the ever deteriorating mental state of Louise.
This book reminded me a bit of Rosemary’s Baby, not so much in the way of plot but because of the ever present sense of tension and doubt that is pervasive throughout. Overall I think this an amazing book. If you love deeply psychological books I would absolutely recommend it!
If you have read this book please let me know what you thought of it!