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.

Winner of The Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary prize, and one of this year’s most anticipated books, The Perfect Nanny is now captivating the rest of the world. First Look Club reviewers Katya and Jed take on Leila Slimani’s chilling American debut in this First Look feature.

The Mood

Katya says: If there’s one thing that The Perfect Nanny has in spades, it’s an atmosphere that screams “Something is going to go wrong.” The novel exists in a perpetual autumn or winter, and moments of true connection between characters are few and far between. Even glimpses of lightness and joy are sapped of their vibrancy, like looking over faded photographs.

Jed says: Leila Slimani immerses the reader in a version of Paris not often seen in media: gloomy, uncaring, suffocating, and thoroughly intriguing. It is a lean novel that will be done in a sitting or two, always keeping the reader on their toes in spite of the clichéd premise—it is as if the book itself is one unfortunate incident away from finally tipping on the side of irredeemable, unstoppable, murderous insanity.

The Language

Katya says: In Taylor’s translation, Slimani’s writing style is sparse, clipped, and often clinical. Sometimes it’s conspicuous, but it adds to the atmosphere of tension and dread, like holding a breath, never sure of what you’re going to find.

Jed says: The novel has been translated from its original French, and there are some remarkably poetic turns of phrase peppered throughout that only support the dreamlike pace at which the plot floats along.

The Verdict

Katya says: As fascinating as The Perfect Nanny’s premise is, the plot comes second to the characters, making it feel like a series of character studies rather than a novel. But Slimani is talented at extracting uncomfortable insights about race, sex, and motherhood, and skillfully captures the strange in-between space that nannies live in around their charges and employers. […] I’ll definitely be reading it again—which is a ringing endorsement if there ever was one.

Jed says: The Perfect Nanny is an almost by-the-numbers thriller that rises above its contemporaries thanks to its fleshed-out characters and its unbearably oppressive atmosphere. […] Readers will not the find the plot of The Perfect Nanny particularly novel, but fans of the genre will find a lot to appreciate in the characters, their day-to-day interactions, and Leila Slimani’s skillful maintenance of the underlying dread that permeates the lives of the people in her story. Highly recommended for avid readers of thrillers and mysteries alike.


Read on: Katya’s review and Jed’s review.

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani is available at Fully Booked stores and Fully Booked Online.

Katya has had a torrid romance with fiction for over two decades, and sneaks out in the middle of the day for clandestine rendezvous in cafés. She works in advertising and has four poodles. You can find her on Instagram @katerinarara

Jed is one of the co-founders of Popsicle Games, a game development studio based in the Philippines. He has worked as an animator, web designer, and college instructor, but he continues to dream of writing for a living. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @jrevita.

[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]

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