I love books about nannies so, despite the fact that The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani is billed as this year’s Gone Girl*, I picked it up at the library. I had to put it on hold though because when I went in hoping to grab a copy on the fly, there were two other women who’d gotten there just ahead of me and were asking for it. So, get ready for some movie options. This thing is popular.
My first impression was that it’s much better written than I expected. And, to my enjoyment, it’s set in Paris.
The story is about a couple, Myriam and Paul who hire a nanny, Louise, to look after their children when Myriam returns to work. Bedraggled Myriam feels driven a bit mad by motherhood and the care of two small children, expressing feelings with which I imagine many mothers out there will sympathize. I know I did.
Nanny Louise enters their lives and she’s an odd bird but an excellent nanny who loves the children and cleans obsessively. Of course, lurking just below the surface, is the crazy. We get a lot of Louise’s very sad background. She had a verbally abusive husband who died and left her with debt and a daughter, Stephanie, who Louise neglected in favor of the children she care for as a nanny.
While the story goes on, we meet some various members of the different French classes and hear what they have to say about their station and others’. That’s a background conversation, however, which I appreciated. I was in it for the murder.
Now, we’ve already read the end of the story at the beginning. The climax is in the first scene and we spend the rest of the book figuring out what led to the tragedy. It’s not a plot trajectory I usually like. I want the action to build to a rollicking apex. But Slimani’s tight prose and knack for getting inside her characters’ heads lured me right along from the start. Also, when tragedy happens, aren’t our first questions “why?” and “how?”
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and read it in a single day.
*I know this is good marketing. I’m just getting tired of it.