cover image The Perfect Nanny

The Perfect Nanny

Leila Slimani, trans. from the French by Sam Taylor. Penguin, $16 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-14-313217-2

Slimani received France’s Goncourt Prize for this unsettling tale of a nanny who insinuates herself into every aspect of her employers’ lives, with tragic results. When Parisian housewife Myriam Massé accepts a job as a lawyer, she and her husband, Paul, hire Louise, an unassuming, doll-like woman in her 40s, to watch their two children. Initially enamored of Louise’s quiet competence, delicious cooking, and constant availability, Myriam and Paul eventually find her dominating their lives in unwelcome ways. As they steel themselves for a confrontation, Louise preempts them in a shocking act of violence. Slimani expertly probes Myriam’s guilt at leaving her children with a stranger and the secret economy of nannies in Paris’s tony professional districts. Taylor’s spare, understated translation underscores the quiet desperation, economic struggles, and crushing loneliness that build to Louise’s final act. Those seeking a thought-provoking character study will appreciate this gripping anatomy of a crime. (Jan.)