• Title: The Perfect Nanny
  • Author: Leila Slimani
  • Edition: Paperback, Penguin Books
  • Published: January 9, 2018
  • Page Count: 228 pages

“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. (Synopsis from Goodreads)”

The Perfect Nanny opens with a chilling scene of something rarely expressed in media, novel or otherwise, the grisly murder scene of children. The novel is less a mystery than a compelling, sometimes claustrophobic, introspection of a woman unraveling and her ever-lessening grip on sanity.

A disturbing portrait of pre-adolescent death is merely the framework in which the rest of the story drapes itself across. While we never actually see another violent depiction such as that one, we are kept so invasively close Louise’s psyche that we are never anything less than disturbed. What on earth could have caused the titular “perfect nanny” Louise, a woman who presents herself as prim, proper, and poised, to lash out in such a fantastically violent manner?

The Perfect Nanny is a tale of obsession, jealousy, and cruelty. We begin with a focus on Myriam and her husband’s desperation to find someone to care for their two children, Mila and Adam, while they each pursue their own ambitious career track. Louise fits the template flawlessly on paper. The children adore her and she them, or so we’re lead to believe. She becomes a seamless addition to the family, blending in to the point that Myriam cannot imagine her life without the woman. Louise’s dedication to becoming an integral part of their lives is endearing at first, this is a woman who values her makeshift family, but this dedication quickly spirals into delusions and toxic fixation as we learn more and more about Louise’s dark past, particularly concerning her tumultuous relationship with her own daughter Stephanie.

Slimani has concocted a fine, tense, thrilling story and although we are never left with the ‘whodunnit‘ question, she proves that the ‘why’ can be just as evocative and entrancing, perhaps even more so.

The only reason I did not give this novel a full five-star rating was due to the ending, or lack thereof. I felt as if we were careening towards an explosive climax of sorts but in reality Slimani made the beginning suffice for the end. It is effective but it left me feeling a little let down by the suddenness.

I definitely recommend The Perfect Nanny, it’s a short read but one that will leave you thinking (and perhaps change the way you see rotisserie chickens for good).

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