'Lullaby' by Leïla Slimani: A terrifying thriller that will scare the socks off you if you've got little one!
by Rana Asfour
This novella revolves around the case of a nanny who is found dead in the nursery of the two children she has just killed before taking her own life. If you're worried, this is NOT a spoiler because the story opens up with the murder and we know what's happened and who's done it. What we don't know is the why and that's one of the reasons most of us will read on.
The book's back cover (paperback edition in this case) asks: Is 'Lullaby' the next 'Gone Girl'? - simple answer is No! the only thing I found in common is that both books are thrillers and the main protagonist in both novels is a female. And that's where the resemblance ends.
I'll be honest with you, this is one of those novels that the more I read the more I was grateful my child no longer required a babysitter/nanny. So, if you're a parent, especially of little ones, I suggest that you sit this one out. It will terrify the socks off of you! No kidding! I mean, come on, it's about a nanny who slaughters the two children in her care. And she seemed quite normal-ish to everyone around her up until that point. However, if some of you new mums are still willing to brave this, then all I'll say is that YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
This is a short book - only 207 pages - so if you're a fast reader you'll finish it in one go, just like I did. And if you feel at the end of it that you suffer a case of wanting to fling the book across the room after you're done, then by all means do so. I did. I found the ending so frustrating that I don't know if I'm ever going to forgive the writer. Maybe at some point - I've got a soft spot for writers - but right now It's too soon to confirm if I will. I'm also thinking that maybe I'll have to, because the book just won't leave me alone. I find myself thinking about it all the time. And that really is the main reason this book has been a major success.
'Lullaby' is translated from the French by Sam Taylor and it's a translation that's very well done. The writing flows and the reader is engaged at all times. I enjoyed the premise of the book but my only beef with the novel is that it really was too short, barely allowing space for all the themes in the book to expand and consolidate. I was also disappointed with regards the reasons that lead the nanny to flip. That said though, it's a very good and gripping read and I highly recommend it.
The Back Cover (amazon.co.uk)
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...
Leïla Slimani is a Franco-Moroccan writer and journalist. In 2016 she was awarded the Prix Goncourt for her novel 'Chanson douce' (Lullaby).