The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds.
When Myriam, a brilliant lawyer, decides to return to work, she and her husband look for a nanny 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 Paris apartment, stays late without complaint and hosts enviable birthday parties. But as the couple and their nanny become more and more dependent on each other, jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, until Myriam and Paul’s idyllic domesticity is shattered . . .
When loving Myrian Massè returns to work, she and husband Paul decide to hire a nanny for their two young children. It is a hard decision to make; she has been with them every day of their short lives. Every step, every bath time, every breakfast, lunch and dinner. For Myrian it will be strange to leave them behind and put them in the care of someone else. But it will open up the doors which for a while seemed tightly shut. It will restore the energy so rolled up in caring for her children’s every need. It will deliver back to her a small portion of the woman she used to be. After a long succession of arrogant, rude and lazy nannies they find the perfect one. Louise.
Louise is a miracle. Their miracle. The house is cleaner than it has ever been before. The children are calmer. The sheets are washed, shirts mended, pots scrubbed and every tantrum and temper soothed. Myrian and Paul at first can’t believe their own fortune. They proudly tell their friends how wonderful Louise is, how the children already adore her, how she goes way beyond the call of duty. Their lives all of a sudden are easier, quieter. They have more time for themselves, for their work and passions. In the beginning they are grateful. In the end they are broken.
As Summer tumbles into Winter, Louise becomes a staple part of their existence. Things, small at first then growing with time, begin to change. Louise manipulates as swiftly as she turns down the bed. Arrogance and cruelty lie where once there would have only been kindness. Malice simmers beneath the cracks in Louise’s facade.
From the first sentence, I was hooked. Leïla Slimani portrays a complex cluster of characters with sharp, punchy prose which instantly captures the reader to the point of breathlessness. Each page was an exciting discovery. I was fascinated by Louise and what made her tick, what belied her actions. She’s a very cold character, vacant almost but if you keep reading, her past and all its troubles come into focus. From the beginning, the reader is privy to the fact that she has commit murder. But why, we don’t know. And only come the end, do we find the answers.
Startling. Compelling. Gripping.
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About Leila Slimani
Leila Slimani is the first Moroccan woman to win France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt. Her first novel, The Ogre’s Garden – forthcoming from Faber & Faber in 2019 – won the Prix La Mamounia. Slimani is a journalist and frequent commentator on women’s and human rights. She lives in Paris with her husband and two children.
Sam Taylor is the translator of HHhH by Laurent Binet and You Will Not Have my Hatred by Antoine Leiris.
Huge thanks to Sophie Portas and Faber & faber for my review copy!