Author: Leïla Slimani (translated by Sam Taylor)
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Genre: Psychological Thriller
“The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds.”
Lullaby was a different take on the traditional thrillers that I am used to. From the very first page the crime has been committed and the killer is known. There is no mystery in a sense, nothing to solve. Except for why. The rest of novel explores the events leading up to the murder of two children by Louise – ‘the perfect nanny’ – and how her time with the Masse family led to her slow descent into madness.
As the outcome of this novel was known from page one, the tone was sinister throughout. Every little detail and small event gave insights into Louise’s state of mind. This is translated fiction, and has short, snappy sentences, which I think really complimented the tone and pacing of the novel. I really enjoyed the writing style and the insights into the minds of the different characters. I particularly liked the slow reveal of Louise’s background and early life, which helped to explain her situation and also presented her as a more sinister and unhinged character. As someone dangerous.
I felt quite detached from all of the characters within the novel and I didn’t really empathise with them, but I didn’t think that this was a detriment to my feelings about the novel. In fact, it was as though the reader was just an onlooker, observing the facts and events that led up to the crime, but without the emotional interference. As a result, Lullaby was more chilling and intrusive, navigating the lives of ordinary people whilst all the while knowing the inevitable conclusion.
My only complaint about the novel was the ending. I found myself wanting more from the conclusion. The entire novel is spent in anticipation of the final act – the murder of the two children – and the events of that tragic day. But you don’t get it. It is quite morbid of me to feel annoyed by this, but I wanted to see the culmination of Louise’s descent from perfect nanny to murderer, and instead the events were only described briefly by a police officer. I would’ve preferred to have been inside Louise’s mind on that day, in keeping with the sinister tone of the novel, even if it ended just before the deaths of the children. It was almost too detached, and I didn’t find it very satisfying.
Have you read The Lullaby? What did you think? Do you have any other recommendations for books like this?