Books

The Perfect Nanny

A Parisian couple realise the nanny watching their children is not quite what she seems in Leïla Slimani's novel.

Leïla Slimani

When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect nanny for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to the children, cleans the family's chic apartment in Paris's upscale 10th arrondissement, 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 and motherhood — and the Canadian debut of an immensely talented writer. (From Penguin Canada)

From the book

The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds. The doctor said he didn't suffer. The broken body, surrounded by toys, was put inside a gray bag, which they zipped shut. The little girl was still alive when the ambulance arrived. She'd fought like a wild animal. They found signs of a struggle, bits of skin under her soft fingernails. On the way to the hospital she was agitated, her body shaken by convulsions. Eyes bulging, she seemed to be gasping for air. Her throat was filled with blood. Her lungs had been punctured, her head smashed violently against the blue chest of drawers.

They photographed the crime scene. They dusted for fingerprints and measured the surface area of the bathroom and the children's bedroom. On the floor, the princess rug was soaked with blood. The changing table had been knocked sideways. The toys were put in transparent bags and sealed as evidence. Even the blue chest of drawers will be used for the trial.

The mother was in a state of shock. That was what the paramedics said, what the police repeated, what the journalists wrote. When she went into the room where the children lay, she let out a scream, a scream from deep within, the howl of a she-wolf. It made the walls tremble. Night fell on this May day. She vomited and that was how the police found her, squatting in the bedroom, her clothes soiled, shuddering like a madwoman. She screamed her lungs out. The ambulance man nodded discreetly and they picked her up, even though she resisted and kicked out at them. They lifted her slowly to her feet and the young female trainee paramedic administered a tranquilizer. It was her first month on the job.


From The Perfect Nanny by Le ï la Slimani, translated by Sam Taylor ©2018. Published by Penguin Canada.

Author interviews

Author Leïla Slimani discusses the dark side of parenthood, perfection and the mother-nanny dynamic in her Prix Goncourt-winning novel, The Perfect Nanny. 18:41