Saturday, 7 April 2018

Book Review: Lullaby/ The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

Book: Lullaby aka The Perfect Nanny 

Author: Leila Slimani 

Translator: Sam Taylor

Pages: 162

Read On: Kindle 

Publisher: Faber & Faber  

How Long it Took Me To Read: 1 day 

Plot Summary: The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds.

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..

General Thoughts: This book has received quite a bit of buzz over the last few months. The premise itself drew me in and I got it on my Kindle and read it in one day! I simply couldn't put it down. 

Things I Liked: 

1. The premise is quite interesting and frankly terrifying. This is a book I wouldn't recommend if you have young children of your own. It's not spoiler but this is a story of a nanny killing the children left in her care. I know for sure, my own mother wouldn't touch this book with a bargepole. But to me this story and how it unravelled was terribly interesting, sometimes unsettling but very engaging. 

2. I quite liked the writing, given this is translated from French I am sure some of it's essence is possibly lost in translation, I still loved the author's ability to make these characters come to life. Myriam with her need to re-join the work force and the stabs of occasional Mom guilt she faces and Louise on the other hand with her strangeness are both wonderfully crafted. 

3. I think this book and it's theme are so relevant and so incredibly relatable. The bane of working parents the world over! Who do you trust to raise your baby? Is the one you are leaving your child with going to keep them safe? Sadly, the world is full of headlines talking of abuse children face at the hands of their caretakers. In some tragic cases, far too many nannies snap and kill. This book I believe is based on a real life case in New York in 2012. Even in India one often hears of the help harming the children. I know friends and family who are terrified yet helpless and have to trust outsiders to step in and help them with raising their kids. So this book will strike a chord with you. 

4. This book made me uncomfortable, it got under my skin and was quite disturbing. Especially the bits that focussed on Louise. The writer has done a fantastic job of writing her character and capturing all of her ticks and insanity. She is not someone I will forget in a hurry! 

5. Myriam and Paul and their marriage and relationship too are brought to life really well. Together and individually they come across and real and like people you are bound to know in real life. 

6. The book talks so honestly and unflinchingly about poverty and what it must be like to live with limited means. The thing I loved best about this book is the tussle between employers and the help. It made me pause and think of my own actions and thoughts regarding help. Here in India, we have grown with having house help and they are an indispensable part of our homes. Yet are they treated well at all times? Do we truly know how they feel about being given leftovers and hand me downs? Do they feel slighted? Do they feel insulted? Are we, even while being benevolent being cruel? I love when books make me pause and think. 

7. The is told from a couple of perspectives. Myriam and Louise of course but also some other minor characters, most from Louise's past make an appearance and this made the book a whole lot more interesting. 

8. This book is a slow and steady unravelling of a disturbed mind. To see Louise slowly but surely breaking down was both intriguing but also unnerving. 

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. My main grouse with the book was there was no look into the aftermath. As in, we aren't told what happens later. Does Louise make it? Does she go to prison? What about the devastated parents? Does their marriage crumble in the aftermath of this grotesque tragedy?
Nada, we are given a whole lot of nothing and I for one would have liked a few more details. 

2. Also we aren't explicitly told why Louise did it. We see her unravelling. We see her breakdown and we come to understand her state of mind...but we aren't quite told why she ultimately snapped and killed the children. 

3. I despised Louise! UGH! I know I should have. I did for a fleeting moment in the book have a tiny bit a little bit empathy with her, a very little bit but overall I hated her! I would HATE it if someone I employed and trusted and treated kindly would abuse my trust. I mean not just the killing of the kids (which is of course beyond horrible or redemption) but also little things like using Myriam's make-up and beauty products. Breaking into their house and living there for a week when the family is on holiday. She was just terrible! I honestly would have fired her ass a long time ago! 

Rating: 3/5 

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