Sunday 24 December 2017

Lullaby by Leila Slimani @FaberBooks @portassoph #Lullaby

The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds.

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 by Leila Slimani is translated by Sam Taylor, and published in the UK by Faber on 18 January 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Lullaby by Leila Slimani is not a cheerful, or seasonal book. It is not an easy read and the subject is dark and will raise questions and debate. However, it is a beautifully observed and intricately written story of parenthood, and murder and how a family can be torn apart by those closest to it.

The reader is spared nothing; from the shocking opening pages that deliver two dead children, right through to the intimate details of each of the relationships within the novel. This author uses her words carefully and sparingly, and they pack such a punch. It's a story that will leave the reader breathless, yet fascinated. It feels voyeuristic, yet compelling.

Myriam and her husband are delighted with their nanny Louise. Despite initial reservations, Myriam's return to work has been made easy by this wonderful woman. Not only do the children adore her, but she cleans the Paris apartment, she cooks the most delightful meals, she is silent, yet becomes essential in their lives. Louise is someone that they can brag about to their friends, feeling smug that they've managed their life so well.

Yet the reader is aware that Louise has murdered the children and whilst the author goes back to describe the blossoming relationship between her and her employers, there's that knowledge; always there, always niggling, always making you wonder.

Lullaby is a dark and brooding novel. It's incredibly difficult to empathise with any of the characters; they dwell in their own heads, putting themselves first. In fact, it is only the innocent children who elicit any warmth or sympathy from the reader. For me, this just adds to the brilliance of the writing; the fact that this author can create such insular characters whilst building such a tense and disturbing around them, is quite brilliant.

Lullaby is disturbing and addictive. Sparse yet elegantly powerful.  Highly recommended.

Leila Slimani
Leila Slimani is the first Moroccan woman to with France's most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt.
Her first novel, The Ogre's Garden - forthcoming from Faber in 2019 - won the Prix La Mamounia.
Slimani is a journalist and frequent commentator on women's and human rights.
She lives in Paris with her husband and two young children.

Sam Taylor is a translator of HHHhH by Laurent Binet and You Will Not Have My Hatred by Antoine Leiris.

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