Book Review: Lullaby by Leïla Slimani

Lullaby by Leïla Slimani
Release Date: 11th January 2018
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Buy: Paperback  Kindle

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...

Lullaby kicks off with the tragic murder of Adam and Mila, the children of French-Moroccan couple Myriam and Paul. However, in a twist from your average murder novel, we find out who is behind the killing of two young children right from the off in Lullaby. Clearly, the nanny did it...
We are then transported back in time to where the story began - with lawyer Myriam longing to go back to work after having two children within a short space of one another.
When the couple hire Louise as their nanny their problems look to be solved. Louise is perfect...And not just any old perfect...We're talking Mary Poppins perfect. She cooks, she cleans, she works extra hours - Paul and Myriam can't believe their luck. She comes with excellent references, including a couple who 'considered having another child, just so they could keep her'. Louise truly is Myriam's savior...But it soon becomes apparent, to the reader before Paul and Myriam, that Louise isn't all that she first appears. There's something very odd about this woman, and it's not long before strange things start to happen in the household and fear starts to set in.

Lullaby is one of those novels that has been on my radar for some time. I kept hearing pretty amazing things about this book (it's even been billed as the next Gone Girl which is a MASSIVE claim) therefore I couldn't wait to delve into Leila Slimani's creepy and unsettling debut.
Lullaby is based on such an interesting concept, examining the feelings that Myriam experienced in her desperation to return to work after having two children. But how scary must it be to technically be handing over your children to a virtual stranger?
This novel asks is we can ever completely trust someone 100 percent. To all intents and purposes, Louise is perfect. Yes, she starts to reveal herself to the reader as being a bit of a lonely character, but the more we discover about her, the more unsettled you start to feel.
Louise was a fascinating character. I never really worked her out, yet she intrigued me. She was frighteningly creepy and Leila did such a wonderful job at building up her profile - so that even her choice of outfit became unsettling (I know that sounds crazy but I was having nightmares about the blue dress with the peter pan collar...)
The format of the story is an unusual one insofar as the murder takes place at the start of the novel and we know who has done it. However, I will admit that I was hoping I had missed something, that more secrets would begin to unfold making the both the start and the finish not quite as clear cut as I was hoping but this didn't really turn out to be the case. I still felt suspense as I was reading but it didn't really reach the crescendo that I was hoping for. Rather than a 'whodunit' Lullaby examines the reasons as to why the murder took place, a 'whydunit' if you will. I mistakenly went into this novel thinking it was a thriller, but looking back I'm not sure you could class it as that. Yes, there is tension, yes there is murder, but there is also an in depth examination of parenting, domesticity, and the importance of trust.

The writing was brilliant, especially considering this was a translation. Leila Slimani creates tension and sets the scene perfectly with her harrowing and unforgettable style. She has done a great job with the characters, all of whom were complex but none of whom were likable. There were times when I found it difficult to believe that Paul and Myriam could continue to let Louise look after their children when she started behaving extremely oddly towards the end (the chicken carcass thing really freaked me out.) After all, you are entrusting your most precious possession to a virtual stranger. If they started behaving oddly wouldn’t you snatch back your children immediately? Or is that me being overprotective?!

Not always easy reading, Lullaby is still a short, sharp, snappy compulsive read & I'm looking forward to reading more from this author.

No comments:

Post a Comment