Book Review: Lullaby, by Leila Slimani, translated by Sam Taylor

A new nanny insinuates herself into every element of a family’s life, providing loving care whilst playing psychologically damaging and abusive games with the children and then with the mother.


Lullaby is a book that can not be put down, no matter how horrified you are at the events unfolding on the pages and the sick feeling in the pit of your stomach that something is terribly wrong. It is written in a way that feels decidedly French and in a manner that is sickly sweet, like honey dripping from a spoon, honey that leaves that bitter, too sweet taste in your mouth as you move onto the next mouthful.

Leila Slimani (a Moroccan author) has written a tale that starts with images that bring horror to the reader. As you are then fed pieces of history that reveal the terribly broken and lonely inner workings of an emotionally dysfunctional English nanny working in the districts around Paris, a suspicion grows that a mother’s postnatal depression may have been at fault. This book has been translated by Sam Taylor.

Louise ingratiates herself with the family and then secretly insinuates herself into every element of the family’s life, providing loving care whilst playing psychologically damaging and abusive games with the children and then with the mother too. She is taken for granted as she begins to take over mothering and household duties almost exclusively, leading a private live that is bereft of comfort and ignoring the conventionalities, such as bill paying. She is obsessive about thrift, wastage and cleaning to a point of not only influencing the way the family operates but making the Myriam (the lawyer mother) feel guilt for her choices in life.

While the children are growing, Louise is taken on a summer family holiday to Greece where, for a short time, she sees herself as a family member and delights in the change of routine and scenery. At other times she sneaks into the family apartment and lives there while they are away, neglecting her own empty private life. We are given glimpses, throughout the tale of evidence being given about her character and her past, as the police try to piece together what happened on the day that a young boy and his sister are murdered.

The ending leaves the reader with very few answers and still feeling very unsettled by the consequences of a story that was never going to be pleasant, but somehow gets under your skin and leaves you wondering how such a sick person managed to hold it together in plain sight for so long.

This is a must-read story of a killer nanny, one for the thriller lover to reread more than once I would suspect.

Reviewed by: Leanne Caune

Rating out of 10:  9

Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Released: February 2018
RRP: $27.99

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