What a disappointment.
I picked this book up after hearing it praised by the New York Times Book Review podcast as one of the best books of 2018. It had been on my TBR – albeit briefly – before that, but I think I deleted it because of the very low ratings on Amazon, of all places. I really wish I had listened and not wasted my time on this one. It’s barely 200 pages, but it took me over a month to finally finish reading it. Yes, it’s true that I was busy with school and didn’t have as much time to read, but I also just didn’t care about the story. At all.
Goodreads Synopsis: When Myriam decides to return to work as a lawyer after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect nanny for their son and daughter. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite, devoted woman who sings to the children, cleans the family’s chic Paris apartment, stays late without complaint, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on one another, jealousy, resentment, and suspicions mount, shattering the idyllic tableau. Building tension with every page, The Perfect Nanny is a compulsive, riveting, bravely observed exploration of power, class, race, domesticity, motherhood, and madness—and the American debut of an immensely talented writer.
I think part of the reason why I didn’t really care for this book is the fact that it’s a translation. I have nothing against translated books – some of my favorite books are translated into English – but it seems like something was lost in translation here. The sentences were choppy and somewhat awkward. This wasn’t an easy book to just sit down and read – it’s a “thriller,” but the story doesn’t flow, and it really affected my overall enjoyment of the book and my desire to actually sit down and read it. Maybe I’m mis-attributing the sentence structure to the translator, or maybe it was done purposefully to capture the original French, but something was missing.
The Perfect Nanny opens with a gruesome murder scene – two small children are dead, and their corpses are being zipped into body bags. Ugh. We know from the first chapter who has murdered them – their nanny – but not why she murdered them. Unfortunately, 200 pages later, I’m still not exactly clear as to the why. The nanny, Louise, barely has a voice, and her character is pieced together episodically. Supplementary anecdotes are provided by a few people from her past, but even these chapters didn’t flesh out Louise’s character. I just don’t think Slimani wrote enough to successfully explain why Louise the creepy nanny murdered her two wards, children she doted over for most of the book. There wasn’t just enough there. Maybe Slimani wants you to read between the lines, and make a connection between Louise’s background, her increasingly strange behavior, and the murders, but I feel like that’s asking a lot of readers when the book is only 200 pages. There’s just not enough to work with.
This book is definitely really creepy, but I just don’t get the why. Not just why the murders happened, but what Slimani was trying to do in the first place. It only takes a few hours to read The Perfect Nanny, but those are hours I wish I’d spent doing something else.