...psychological suspense novel about a 'perfect' nanny who snaps ...aspires toward the taut elegance of that classic nanny nightmare tale, Henry James’s 'The Turn of the Screw,'... The voice of Slimani’s omniscient third-person narrator is consistently chill and precise; her plot spares neither her characters’ fates nor her readers’ sensibilities ... Poetic phrases like that one abound throughout the novel and elevate it well above its formulaic premise, one that has inspired many a Lifetime television movie ... Surely it’s the enduring masochistic power of that nightmare — rendered particularly vivid here through Slimani’s great stylistic gifts — that have made this slim novel an international bestseller.
...this book’s elegant prose, sharp plotting, and masterful blend of suspense and literary fiction combine to deliver an outstanding crime novel that will appeal to readers looking for an understated – yet distinctly sinister – story of suspense ... The Perfect Nanny thrills not with plot twists and blood, but with understated suggestions of violence that’s to come, but violence which is very limited on the page ... Readers will find themselves swept along in a story that is as sparse as it is technically beautiful. Woven into this compelling story are sharp and poignant instances of commentary on race, motherhood, and class...relies on very limited and calculated character development to deliver its brand of sinister suspense ...will not be the right choice for a reader hoping for a twisty-turny, breakneck pace thriller, but it will perfectly suit the reader who prefers to be chilled by twisted subtleties and sinister implications.
Slimani’s disturbing portrait of class, race and motherhood begins with a slaughter of innocents and then ratchets up the tension as clues multiply of how the increasingly intimate relationship between a nanny and the family she works for could culminate in such an incomprehensible crime.
...a prizewinner and succès de scandale in France... In a stripped-down translation by Sam Taylor, the novel proceeds gradually but ineluctably to the scene foreshadowed in the prologue, the murder of both children in their bathtub ... The murders have understandably commanded the novel’s publicity efforts, but in truth Ms. Slimani mostly leaves them off the page ... less a thriller than a sociological study, and it doesn’t shock so much as usefully destabilize current bourgeois customs of parenthood ... Ms. Slimani is brilliantly insightful about the peculiar station nannies assume within the households of working families, at once intimate and subservient.
...Leïla Slimani’s deft, often agonising novel shakes it up with a precision that takes your breath away ...what we’re really waiting for is a motive, and Slimani ratchets up the tension by scattering clues, some so distressing that you read on with a genuine and mounting sense of dread ...what raises this why-dunnit way above the usual killer-nanny thriller is that it’s also a fantastically well-wrought portrait of social, economic – and ultimately moral – distress and deprivation ... What appears at first to be a conventionally enough told tale soon gathers velocity, taking more and more risks as it gallops between viewpoints and tenses, introducing new and pungent characters...throwaway beauty of so many of Slimani’s descriptions and phrases. The result is that you are taken deep into a fragile, damaged yet somehow rationally irrational psyche.
The question at the heart of the novel is one that journalists reporting on that crime also sought to answer: what could possibly motivate a caregiver to kill the children in her charge? ... In The Perfect Nanny, a similar prose style evokes the repetitive cycle of daily existence. There is something disquieting in Slimani’s present tense, which seems always about to rupture the veneer of equanimity ... Sam Taylor’s confident English translation retains all French place-markers and cultural signposts. It carefully adapts the pleasing simplicity of Slimani’s prose and adheres to her rigorous resistance to making ethnicity a centerpiece of the story ... The Perfect Nanny offers a window onto the experience of being immersed in someone else’s tragedy, all the while expressing deep ambivalence about the contemporary media culture from which such stories emerge.
The book’s identity is a muddled affair, poised between a big literary prize and a publicity campaign that’s yanking its brow down … The murdering-nanny plot feels totally disjointed from the rest of the novel, not least because we never really get a sense of Louise’s motives. And no wonder, since it was lifted wholesale from the headlines … It doesn’t help that the social themes outside the apartment are much better realized that those inside it, which makes one suspect that Slimani is trying to hang prestige material on what is essentially a grubby voyeuristic exercise. Like Gone Girl, the novel deserves praise for pulling off a tricky plot with nuance. But in the future, Slimani might want to come up with her own stories.
Its multiple appeal is clear from the first page: Slimani’s style, enhanced by Sam Taylor’s graceful, unobtrusive translation, is calm, matter-of-fact and controlled, with only a hint of the deranged unravelling to come ...a whydunnit rather than a whodunnit or a howdunnit, it is primarily a cool, dispassionate, and thoroughly uncomfortable look at class, culture and gender, particularly the eternally knotty subject of motherhood...repressed chaos is constantly at work in the book, scrabbling beneath the formal exterior ...it is redolent of Zola’s Thérèse Raquin, or Genet’s The Maids.
It’s a fragmented thriller, social, domestic, and philosophical. From the throwdown opening sentence to the final scene, in which the female chief investigator dreads the fact that she has to reenact the crime playing the role of the nanny, this novel offers readers a complex and deeply uncomfortable emotional experience. The power of this page-turner hinges on a few crucial narrative choices: first, there is the reportage style, reflecting Slimani’s training as a journalist. Second, there is that horrifying opening chapter, which colors the rest of the novel, a loop through time, space, and perspectives. Third, there are the orbiting points of view from whom the tale is told ... this novel offers a far more sophisticated and compelling reading experience than its American title and cover image belie.
One can see why the judges were wowed. The voice of Slimani's omniscient narrator is chill and precise; her plot spares neither her characters' fates nor her readers' sensibilities. The opening paragraph of The Perfect Nanny warns us this is a story in which the worst can happen and, in fact, just has... Slimani's aloof narrator slowly reveals that Louise obsessively yearns for a second chance to perfect her own flawed mothering skills. Of course, it's an impossible aim and the pressure mounts ... Poetic phrases like that one abound throughout Slimani's novel and elevate it well above its formulaic premise, one that has inspired many a beware-the-au-pair Lifetime movie ... Surely it's the enduring masochistic power of that nightmare of maternal inadequacy — rendered particularly vivid here through Slimani's stylistic gifts — that have made this slim novel an international bestseller. Talk about a guilty pleasure.
We begin The Perfect Nanny in horror, and then miraculously, swiftly, Slimani creates a person out of that powerful spectacle. In this fashion the novel functions like an extended Maupassant story turned inside out … Narrating from a dazzling array of viewpoints, Slimani produces an ever-turning love triangle of possession and resentment … The result is a book that provokes horror only to slide it aside and challenge us to forget it.
This novel delves deeper into social commentary than a conventional thriller, closely examining the prickly issues of class and gender that emerge when a working mother hires a stranger to look after her children ... By opening the novel with the nanny’s violent act of revenge, Slimani eschews the conventions of a traditional thriller. Rather than the crime itself, the author is interested in the social conditions that precipitate it ...text is riddled with distracting idiosyncrasies that intrude upon the reader’s enjoyment ... The confusion that occasionally ensues breaks the rhythm, shattering the illusion the author has so painstakingly conjured ... The Perfect Nanny is too cerebral to be the next Gone Girl, but it is indeed a gripping psychological thriller ...modern horror story of busy parents who hire the wrong nanny.
Set in Paris, The Perfect Nanny opens with the title character having just viciously assaulted the two kids in her charge, and proceeds to take the reader through the months leading up to the ghastly (and fatal) deed ...The Perfect Nanny is like a gelid hand slowly closing itself around your heart — but never giving it the dreaded squeeze ...thanks to the story’s structure, the reader knows of the hideous crime Louise will end up committing injects an element of suspense into her otherwise mundane brief: childcare and homemaking ... Slimani does not succeed entirely in bridging the gap between Louise as perfect nanny and Louise as crazed murderer, nor does she finger the decisive factor that triggers her paroxysm of violence. Yet, every indication, whether behavioral or purely psychological, of the woman’s demons goes some way toward bringing together her two warring halves.
Reminiscent of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, the story’s tension builds relentlessly even though the author has telegraphed the morbid ending at the beginning of the book. Louise’s descent into mental illness, even madness, grabs us by the throat ...this unsettling tale has been translated into English by Sam Taylor, for an eager North American audience. Fans of psychological thrillers will find it a perfect start to their 2018 reading list.
The novel opens with the crime, so its readability (helped by Sam Taylor’s cool translation) comes from the back story: the transformation of Louise from good fairy to madwoman in the attic. The plot details are laid on ever more thickly ... A slim page-turner, The Perfect Nanny can be read in a single, shivery sitting. It satisfies every middle-class nightmare about the guilty relief of entrusting your screaming toddlers to other people’s care. It will make a great film. Great literature it isn’t.
In the end, Louise’s particular twisted motives don’t really reveal anything essential about the pitfalls of modern child-rearing. Though portions of the novel are told from Louise’s perspective, and though Slimani fills in enough of the nanny’s dysfunctional history to make her obscene final act feel plausible, she remains something of an enigma—deliberately so. Readers aren’t likely to converge on a single interpretation of why Louise has done what she’s done. Ultimately, she holds sway as a symbol rather than as a psychological reality, a choice that makes this deftly told tale all the more eerie. Parental ideals of perfect safety and fears of imminent calamity are embodied in Slimani’s nanny, who invites—and flouts—the faith that anyone can assure one and prevent the other. That her power to do both is so ordinary only makes it more horrifying.
The scenes of bourgeois life can be a bit slow, but the book picks up intensity when we start to hear from different witnesses to the crime, layered throughout ... In some ways, the book is a classic, even Dostoevskian, tale of one person’s descent into madness. But the true structure of The Perfect’s Nanny seems to be more of a love-triangle. Both the parents and Louise are in love with the children, but only one can possess them in the end. Louise plays the part of the spurned mistress. The outcome can only be disastrous.
Inspired by a 2012 case involving an Upper West Side nanny accused of killing two children in her charge, Slimani’s novel moves the story to a similarly upscale locale, the tenth arrondissement of Paris ...leaving no doubt as to the culprit, the reader quickly gathers that the inquiry here is not who did it but why. A narrative that is chiefly flashback attempts to reverse-engineer an explanation ... The near-omniscient point of view darts in and out of the consciousness of many characters, some quite marginal ... depiction of internal pressures building to a homicidal pitch is fragmentary at best ... The prose, despite Taylor’s often slapdash translation, manages to convey an atmosphere of creeping dread reminiscent of Modiano, but with more lurid details.
...unsettling tale of a nanny who insinuates herself into every aspect of her employers’ lives, with tragic results ... Slimani expertly probes Myriam’s guilt at leaving her children with a stranger and the secret economy of nannies... Taylor’s spare, understated translation underscores the quiet desperation, economic struggles, and crushing loneliness that build to Louise’s final act ...a thought-provoking character study...gripping anatomy of a crime.