‘The Perfect Nanny’ by Leila Slimani

Translated from the French (‘Chanson Douce‘), and called ‘Lullaby‘ in the UK, this thriller is about paying someone else to take care of your kids and the ways in which that can go off the rails. The book is enjoying a high profile at the moment with some stellar reviews, and was recommended to me as a profound work examining topics like parenting and what it’s like to work as domestic help. But I found the book disappointing and didn’t feel that the author captured the nuance of this topic well enough. Instead the novel felt harsh and creepy, getting at the issues through scare tactics rather than thoughtful consideration.

The horrific opening would likely put off some readers right from the start. This is a ‘why-dunit’ not a ‘whodunit’ because you read about the murder of two children by a nanny on the first two pages and the rest of the book is a slow burning explanation of how this might have happened. I had expected some further twists and turns to redeem it or some more helpful conclusions beyond shallow themes of power/class and depravation/plenty. Sadly it said nothing helpful or hopeful about the fact that many parents rely on child care–they really don’t need to have additional guilt or terror heaped on.

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