We love a good psychological thriller, and the page-turner on everyone’s lips right now is Lullaby. Written by French-Moroccan author Leïla Slimani – and translated from the original French by Sam Taylor – the award-winning, best-selling novel looks set to be one of the most successful books of 2018…
What’s it about?
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...
Why is everyone talking about it?
Firstly, it’s been marketed as this year’s version of female-led thrillers Gone Girl and Girl On The Train. And the shocking first line might have something to do with it too: “The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds.” (That’s not giving away any spoilers; the line is also printed on the front of the book).
The novel’s subject is something that sends chills through every working parent: how well do you really know the person taking care of your kids? And despite the shock factor – not many novels open with a double infanticide – it’s actually inspired by a true story; the real-life murder of two children by their nanny in New York in 2012. Scary stuff.
What have critics been saying?
“This tense, deftly written novel about a perfect nanny’s transition into a monster will take your breath away,” the Guardian wrote, while the Independent called it “a chilling, horror-filled read that will have readers on the edge of their seats”.
Did SL rate it?
It kept us up all night turning the pages – this isn’t a book you’ll be able to put down easily. We may know how the story ends right from the beginning, but that doesn’t make the novel any less terrifying – in fact, it’s a clever move from Slimani; getting the violence out of the way so we can find out what exactly would lead a seemingly normal nanny to murder two young children.
Through her beautifully lyrical prose and in-depth character studies, Slimani explores the bigger picture – giving a commentary on class, race, gender and the politics of mothering. It’s a seriously smart book, and much better written than a lot of its counterparts.
Anything else to know?
Just as Gone Girl and Girl On The Train were made into major movies, Lullaby will follow suit – film versions of the book are already under way in France and the US. Plus, Slimani is working on her third novel – which she says will hopefully be as shocking as this one.
Lullaby by Leïla Slimani is out now (Faber & Faber, £12.99)