It’s hard to truly express how disquieting The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani is—a portrait of disturbed nanny Louise and the time leading up to the brutal murder of the two children Mila and Adam in her care.
Beginning with the horror of the murder and then chugging back in time to when their mother Myriam decides to return to work and the seemingly perfect nanny falls into their lap. She goes the extra mile, cooking, cleaning, teaching, overly involved in every facet of their life until she’s fully engrained like a sickness, a mold, and then things begin to unravel.
Written in French and translated to English there are times that the prose feels a bit over the top, but generally this story is expertly rendered with such tension, every moment unnerving knowing how it all ends. I was particularly drawn to the parents, how entitled they were with Louise’s time and how much they took for granted and then the moment a line was crossed and they could no longer disentangle themselves, like a dark fairy tale, they had taken too much in their greed and a lesson would be learned.
A compelling character, Louise is described often as a doll, fragile with surprising strength, quiet and intense. When she begins to abuse and neglect the children in growing ways it becomes so frustrating to watch the parents ignore the warning signs but who’s to know what separates a bad nanny from a murderous one? Only time, only the event itself.
I could have continued reading this book forever and yet was so relieved when it ended.