LULLABY opens with two dead children, killed by the nanny. It proceeds to reveal how and why. There’s suspense, tension and mystery. Louise, the nanny is wonderful – the parents love her, the children love her. But stuff gets in the way – like class, humiliation, relative wealth, race, caring as a financial transaction, suspicion, privilege, hypocrisy and insecurity.
Slimani’s novel has a simplicity about it that I found very appealing, but that simplicity belies its depths. The nanny’s relationship with another woman in the neighbourhood, Wafa, only takes up a few pages all in but tells us so much about them both and the worlds they inhabit. Louise’s interactions with Myriam, the children’s mother, are more frequent but similarly laden with layers of meaning. And questions too, about what price we pay for our choices, about the illusion that parenthood is one more thing at which we will excel, to which we are entitled.
LULLABY is an easy book to read – it’s gripping and well written. Yet the insight into Louise’s life, into the parent’s attitudes towards her, makes for an uncomfortable read too. And then there’s what you know is coming. The building tension as we wait to find out the motive. The horror and the sadness. The neighbours hindsight and everyone’s remonstrations. But it adds up to so much more than a thriller. It’s an interesting book about women’s roles and equality and the emotions we hide from others. Unusual and definitely to be recommended.