A huge best-seller in France, The Perfect Nanny packs a punch that its brief length belies. It addresses issues both topical and enduring through the lens of the relationship of a young professional Parisian couple and the caregiver they hire for their two young children when the mother has a chance to return to work.
The shock of the novel's chilling first sentence, "The baby is dead," is elegantly balanced by the complex issues Slimani addresses: our expectations of mothers' responsibilities, our connection to the people we employ, our view of immigrants, and the ways in which how see ourselves differs from the realities of who we really are.
This is a striking, powerful novel that, rightly, leaves us with more questions than answers. It's a book that doesn't let go easily, and as a reader, I was the better for that.
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani ($16.00*, Penguin Books), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, Asheville, NC.