The Perfect Nanny

The Perfect Nanny

by Leila Slimani

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Overview

*One of the 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR of The New York Times Book Review*

*National Bestseller*


“A great novel . . . Incredibly engaging and disturbing . . . You read the entire novel knowing something terrible is coming. In that, Slimani has us in her thrall.” —Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author of Bad Feminist and Hunger

“A book . . . that I’ve thought about pretty much every day . . . [It] felt less like an entertainment, or even a work of art, than like a compulsion. I found it extraordinary.” —Lauren Collins, The New Yorker

“One of the most important books of the year. You can’t unread it.” —Barrie Hardymon, NPR’s Weekend Edition


She has the keys to their apartment. She knows everything. She has embedded herself so deeply in their lives that it now seems impossible to remove her.
 
When Myriam decides to return to work as a lawyer after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect nanny for their son and daughter. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite, devoted woman who sings to the children, cleans the family’s chic Paris apartment, stays late without complaint, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on one another, jealousy, resentment, and suspicions mount, shattering the idyllic tableau. Building tension with every page, The Perfect Nanny is a compulsive, riveting, bravely observed exploration of power, class, race, domesticity, motherhood, and madness—and the American debut of an immensely talented writer.

The #1 international bestseller and winner of France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt, by the author of Adèle

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525503897
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/09/2018
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 3,310
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Leila Slimani is the first Moroccan woman to win France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt, which she won for The Perfect Nanny. Her first novel, Adèle, won the La Mamounia Prize for the best book by a Moroccan author written in French. A journalist and frequent commentator on women’s and human rights, Slimani is French president Emmanuel Macron’s personal representative for the promotion of the French language and culture and was ranked #2 on Vanity Fair France’s annual list of The Fifty Most Influential French People in the World. Born in Rabat, Morocco, in 1981, she now lives in Paris with her French husband and their two young children.

Read an Excerpt

“My nanny is a miracle-worker.” That is what Myriam says when she describes Louise’s sudden entrance into their lives. She must have magical powers to have trans­formed this stifling, cramped apartment into a calm, light- filled place. Louise has pushed back the walls. She has made the cupboards deeper, the drawers wider. She has let the sun in. 

On the first day, Myriam gives her a few instructions. She shows her how the appliances work. Pointing to an object or a piece of clothing, she repeats: “Be careful with that. I’m very attached to it.” She makes recommendations about Paul’s vinyl collection, which the children must not touch. Louise nods, silent and docile. She observes each room with the self-assurance of a general standing before a territory he is about to conquer.

In the weeks that follow her arrival, Louise turns this hasty sketch of an apartment into an ideal bourgeois inte­rior. She imposes her old-fashioned manners, her taste for perfection. Myriam and Paul can’t get over it. She sews the buttons back on to jackets that they haven’t worn for months because they’ve been too lazy to look for a needle. She hems skirts and pairs of trousers. She mends Mila’s clothes, which Myriam was about to throw out without a qualm. Louise washes the curtains yellowed by tobacco and dust. Once a week, she changes the sheets. Paul and Myriam are overjoyed. Paul tells her with a smile that she is like Mary Poppins. He isn’t sure she understands the compliment.

At night, in the comfort of their clean sheets, the cou­ple laughs, incredulous at their new life. They feel as if they have found a rare pearl, as if they’ve been blessed. Of course, Louise’s wages are a burden on the family budget, but Paul no longer complains about that. In a few weeks, Louise’s presence has become indispensable.

 

When Myriam gets back from work in the evenings, she finds dinner ready. The children are calm and clean, not a hair out of place. Louise arouses and fulfills the fantasies of an idyllic family life that Myriam guiltily nurses. She teaches Mila to tidy up behind herself and her parents watch dumbstruck as the little girl hangs her coat on the peg.

Useless objects have disappeared. With Louise, noth­ing accumulates anymore: no dirty dishes, no dirty laun­dry, no unopened envelopes found later under an old magazine. Nothing rots, nothing expires. Louise never ne­glects anything. Louise is scrupulous. She writes every­thing down in a little flower-covered notebook. The times of the dance class, school outings, doctor’s appointments. She copies the names of the medicines the children take, the price of the ice creams she bought for them at the fairground, and the exact words that Mila’s schoolteacher said to her.

After a few weeks, she no longer hesitates to move ob­jects around. She empties the cupboards completely, hangs little bags of lavender between the coats. She makes bouquets of flowers. She feels a serene contentment when—with Adam asleep and Mila at school— she can sit down and contemplate her task. The silent apartment is completely under her power, like an enemy begging for forgiveness.

But it’s in the kitchen that she accomplishes the most extraordinary wonders. Myriam has admitted to her that she doesn’t know how to cook anything and doesn’t really want to learn. The nanny prepares meals that Paul goes into raptures about and the children devour, without a word and without anyone having to order them to finish their plate. Myriam and Paul start inviting friends again, and they are fed on blanquette de veau, pot-au-feu, ham hock with sage and delicious vegetables, all lovingly cooked by Louise. They congratulate Myriam, shower her with compliments, but she always admits: “My nanny did it all.”
 


When Mila is at school, Louise attaches Adam to her in a large wrap. She likes to feel the child’s chubby thighs against her belly, his saliva that runs down her neck when he falls asleep. She sings all day for this baby, praising him for his laziness. She massages him, taking pride in his folds of flesh, his round pink cheeks. In the mornings, the child welcomes her with gurgles, his plump arms reaching out for her. In the weeks that follow Louise’s arrival, Adam learns to walk. And this boy who used to cry every night sleeps peacefully until morning.

Mila is wilder. She is a small, fragile girl with the pos­ture of a ballerina. Louise ties her hair in buns so tight that the girl’s eyes look slanted, pulled toward her tem­ples. Like that, she resembles one of those medieval hero­ines with a broad forehead, a cold and noble expression. Mila is a difficult, exhausting child. Any time she becomes irritated, she screams. She throws herself to the ground in the middle of the street, stamps her feet, lets herself be dragged along to humiliate Louise. When the nanny crouches down and tries to speak to her, Mila turns away.

She counts out loud the butterflies on the wallpaper. She watches herself in the mirror when she cries. This child is obsessed by her own reflection. In the street, her eyes are riveted to shop windows. On several occasions she has bumped into lampposts or tripped over small obstacles on the sidewalk, distracted by the contemplation of her own image.

Mila is cunning. She knows that crowds stare, and that Louise feels ashamed in the street. The nanny gives in more quickly when they are in public. Louise has to take detours to avoid the toyshop on the avenue, where the lit­tle girl stands in front of the window and screams. On the way to school, Mila drags her feet. She steals a raspberry from a greengrocer’s stall. She climbs on to windowsills, hides in porches, and runs away as fast as her legs will carry her. Louise tries to go after her while pushing the stroller, yelling the girl’s name, but Mila doesn’t stop until she comes to the very end of the sidewalk. Sometimes Mila regrets her bad behavior. She worries about Louise’s paleness and the frights she gives her. She becomes loving again, cuddly. She makes it up to the nanny, clinging to her legs. She cries and wants to be mothered.

Slowly, Louise tames the child. Day after day, she tells her stories, where the same characters always recur. Or­phans, lost little girls, princesses kept as prisoners, and castles abandoned by terrible ogres. Strange beasts—birds with twisted beaks, one-legged bears and melancholic unicorns—populate Louise’s landscapes. The little girl falls silent. She stays close to the nanny, attentive, impatient. She asks for certain characters to come back. Where do these stories come from? They emanate from Louise, in a continual flood, without her even thinking about it, with­out her making the slightest effort of memory or imagina­tion. But in what black lake, in what deep forest has she found these cruel tales where the heroes die at the end, after first saving the world?

Customer Reviews

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The Perfect Nanny: A Novel 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tedious at times. Needs more explanation as to what caused the nanny to snap.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be disjointed. There was little character development and I expected more of a psychological thriller.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting until the end which Was a terrible letdown.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unfortunately, the author writes about the ending on the very first page. And it is a horrifically terrifying ending that I think will forever haunt me. Of course it is the fear of every mother, and the awful feeling that in today's world we cannot trust anyone to be alone with our children. I think it would have been a good book in my opinion if it had had a different ending. I must warn that it is disturbing to the point that I wish I had never read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book deals with issues that may make you uncomfortable, but this tragic story makes you examine how people treat one another when we become busy, preoccupied or when we believe we are superior to others. Read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I cant believe this book was even published! Seriously, i had high hopes for a thriller! Double triple yawn Buy somethibg else Trust me
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
No bow to wrap it up. Just ended without a why or happened. Good otherwise.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Totally into... could not put down... ending was disappointing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Had I known more about the book I would not have wasted time reading it. It's about depravity, mental illness, and unhappiness with no redemption.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
End is a rush ro nothing. Pass
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an easy read, and I read it in a day, but I was very unsatisfied at the end. First, and maybe this was due to the translation, but the author is obsessed with the word scream. It is used on almost every page and totally loses its emphasis by being so overused. Once I started realizing how often it was used I couldn't stop seeing it everywhere. Surely the editor could have consulted a thesaurus and suggested other words. Second, the ending seems extremely rushed. How the nanny went from doting on those children to what happened at the end was not clear and thus unbelievable, even if this was inspired by true events. This needed to be fleshed out. Plus I'm unclear on what exactly happened to the nanny at the end. And I had to go back to the front of the book to be reminded of what happened to the children because it's not discussed nor explained at the end. And even then, we still don't know what really happened. I also think there should have been some explanation for why the nanny would not even consider a possible job with newborn twins when she was so obsessed with taking care of a new baby to stay with the family. We don't know what happened with her previous hospital stay and nothing is ever explained there. I also wonder why she never had any money. If she wasn't paying her husband's debts and was throwing away the mail, why was she so destitute? She was getting paid to be a nanny, so surely she had some money. I don't expect every book to have a tidy ending, but this one was extremely annoying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I honestly do not understand all the fuss about this book. I found it sorely lacking in language, suspense and character development. No redeeming characters. Bleak.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not worth the paper it’s printed on or the pages of my Nook. Terrible....not one good thing about it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Living in Paris’s tenth arrondissement, Paul and Myriam Masses are married and the parents of two young children, Mila and Adam. Myriam has not used her education and caring for the children has become boring for her. So when a former classmate asks her to join his lawn firm, she is ecstatic. Now, she needs to find a nanny and today she is doing interviews. After interviewing many women, she is taken in by Louise. The woman is in her 40s although she looks much younger. They hire her and both parents are delighted at everything that Louise manages to accomplish each day. Myriam dives into her new job working long hours and doesn’t miss being at home with the children. Louise is an enthusiastic and creative woman who goes to extremes to entertain the children. Myriam is amazed at her energy. Louise loves to play hide and seek but hides too long until the children become afraid that she has left them. But soon the kids catch on and understand her more. Louise is now the perfect nanny for Paul and Myriam. She does everything for them and their friends think she is wonderful. They even take her on vacation with them. After some time, Myriam begins to suspect that Louise is not everything she seems to be. There is something wrong and she can’t quite put her finger on it. But she does know she is going to have to get rid of Louise. Will take be possible? It seems Louise wants something from them very much, but what? This is a strange story. I understand the plot is meant to show the intensity with which some people view their jobs, but there is more to Louise. I feel that I was not able to fully glean the reason(s) for what made Louise who she is. I guess we just never know if someone is truly who we think they are. Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Anonymous 7 days ago
I guess this just isn't my type of book. It didn't really have a great storyline and to me it left things hanging.
Anonymous 17 days ago
I didn't like the abrupt ending.
Anonymous 23 days ago
The ending really made no sense to me.
Anonymous 23 days ago
wasn't sure what I was expecting - was a little let down. the beginning draws you in, but there's no real closure after all that.....
Anonymous 25 days ago
,
Anonymous 26 days ago
This was a character study of a complex, unstable and paradoxical woman who looked to another family to give her a life. The relationship starts off too good to be true, but slowly disintegrates to a subtle distrust and resentment of each other. This story was written very well, except for the ending. It was so abrupt, and the investigator's thinking through the crime from the killer's point of view was bizarre, and didn't add to the story. We, as readers, already knew this. I would have liked to see how it ended with the parents, their coping, and if they stayed together.
Anonymous 28 days ago
Boring
Anonymous 8 months ago
it+was+a+fascinating+story+until+the+last+chapter
Anonymous 8 months ago
Not a fan, you keep waiting to grt to the good part and it doesnt come.
Anonymous 8 months ago
The book is very interesting, the author has a great way of creating a picture of the family. The disappointment is that there is no ending! The story is winding to a climax and then, one final sentence.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i bought this book because it was highly rated. This book was horrible, I don't know who rated it, but they need to have their head checked. It was boring and so hard to get through. I was hoping for a thriller, or a story that would steal my heart, the only thing it stole was my time. Definitely would not recommend this book. Read all the time and this is the first book I have ever given a bad review.