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Au pair beware

Cover of The Perfect Nanny
A review of The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

“The baby is dead.”

That’s the first sentence.

Here’s a suspense thriller that puts it all out there from the get-go. Generally unconcerned with twists or secret motives, The Perfect Nanny really isn’t for you if you’re craving an old-fashioned who-done-it. But if you want a psychological horror show that is as literary as it is tawdry, Slimani serves it up on a platinum platter.

Tautly plotted and economically written, The Perfect Nanny sustains its tension by enrapturing us in the melodramas between Louise the nanny and her employers, by playing upon our shopworn expectations of domestic thrillers, and by giving us snapshots of escalating menace, the dead baby of the opening line always looming large.

The Perfect Nanny is also, perhaps above all, an unsparing social critique. No doubt Slimani’s blistering portrait of liberal bourgeois hypocrisy struck a chord with readers in her adopted France, where she won the Prix Goncourt, France’s biggest literary prize (past recipients include Proust and de Beauvoir), and was tapped by President Macron for cultural ambassadorship.

But none of that really matters when a novel is this deliberate, chilling, and, dare I say it ... perfect.

November 5, 2018