Book Review: Lullaby by Leïla Slimani

by Leïla Slimani, Sam Taylor (Translator)

Publication date: January 11th 2018
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Pages: 207

The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds.

When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect caretaker for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family’s chic apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint and is able to host enviable birthday parties.

The couple and nanny become more dependent on each other. But as jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, Myriam and Paul’s idyllic tableau is shattered…

Source: Goodreads


I finished “Lullaby” a while ago now and I still don’t know how I feel about it.

“You shouldn’t try to understand everything. Children are just like adults. There’s nothing to understand.”

It’s not a spoiler to say that this is a book about a nanny who murders the children she is employed to take care of. The crime is revealed in chapter one before leaping back to a time when hiring a nanny was only an idea in the minds of parents Myriam and Paul.

The first chapter was intense, emotional and gripping. You really want to find out what happened and why but what follows is an ambiguous story that leaves you wondering how this could even happen, especially when the children were so young. There are no easy answers and “Lullaby” isn’t really prepared to give you them either.

This story is not all that fast paced, it’s a slow burn but in knowing the ending at the beginning, I think that’s okay. The focus here is more on the characters and the nanny, Louise’s relationship with the family. As the truth is slowly unraveled, the tension begins to build but then, just over 200 pages in, the story abruptly finishes.

With so many unanswered questions I actually considered that some of the pages of my library copy had gone missing. I had to reread the last couple of paragraphs just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. This wasn’t what I was expecting, I just feel like I’ve left a book unfinished and now feel slightly underwhelmed by the whole thing.

Overall rating: “Lullaby” is gripping and it’s definitely a thriller, but I don’t know if there is much more I can say. From page one we know how the story is going to end, so the pages explore why and how this has come to happen. When the final page is turned, we still don’t really know the answers so let’s say I enjoyed it but I need some more time to process what I’ve read to truly appreciate it. 3 stars!

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Lullaby by Leïla Slimani

  1. I found this an impressively uncomfortable read. When I first finished it, I wasn’t balled over by the ending. When I look back, I think the “Why” is explored the whole time, and the ending is only really there to reinforce it.

    Louise’s forgotten place in society, personal history and her irrelevance over time is what makes her so dangerous. When the neighbours and past families give viewpoints and opinions at the end, her desperation and isolation is even clearer. The book even subtly tackles immigration and community.

    Eerily, Louise is written about in such a terrifying way that it’s difficult to empathise with her position and place, and so really easy to completely disregard the “Why’s” that feed into her behaviour. I identified more with the parents and their career/family conflicts. For this reason, I feel like this book is more of a social commentary than I first realised, and even thinking about it now it is growing on me.


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