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Lullaby Paperback – 26 Jul 2018
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The smartest thriller you'll read all year. (Independent)
Compulsively readable. I read it in one sitting. (The Times)
Thrilling . . . Intelligent and unerringly humane. (Julie Myerson Observer)
I defy you to read the disturbing opening sentences and not be compelled to read on. (Stylist)
A remarkable novel . . . dark, ambitious, disturbing and arresting. (Scotland on Sunday)
A taut and exquisitely written novel that will keep you up all night desperately turning the pages. This book is insanely good. (Kate Hamer, author of The Girl in the Red Coat)
Extremely gripping . . . An important book. (Sunday Independent)
From the opening scene . . . the book grabs you and does not let go. (The Pool)
An unnerving, addictive book. (Grazia)
An addictively tense domestic thriller. (Red)
The number-one bestseller and winner of the Prix Goncourt - a compulsive, riveting and bravely observed exploration of power, class, race, domesticity and motherhood.See all Product description
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Firstly, this is an excellent translation. Sam Taylor did a wonderful job of translating from the French and still making the book dark and lyrical. If you are French or a French speaker, however, I imagine this book is absolutely stunning in French.
Because we already know what happens to Myriam and Paul's children, the first half of the book was so tense and I found it hard to put it down; Louise, the nanny, is unnerving and simply too perfect, like a Mary Poppins gone horribly wrong. Supercalifragilisticshe's-secretly-atrocious. To call Louise evil, however, doesn't seem right, especially not in the first half of the book. What she ends up doing is vile, but Lullaby is clever in the way it explores how the people we let into our families can change things and also how parents who can afford to hire nannies can sometimes take advantage of them or patronise them without realising.
Sadly, I do think Lullaby has been the victim of dishonest marketing. I keep seeing it marketed as a thriller and, to be honest, I don't think it is. Yes there's a murder, but this story is much more social commentary than anything else. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if you go into this book expecting a thriller and find instead a very domestic, quiet and short novel about social politics you're bound to feel a little betrayed.
For me I also felt as though the book lost its way in the middle and I wasn't as interested. I don't have children and therefore I've never been in the position of having to trust someone I don't really know to look after them, so perhaps I would act the same way as Myriam does in this novel, but there were quite a few times when Louise's behaviour was disturbing enough that I would have let her go. The tragedy is that Louise's life hasn't been easy and she's suffered a lot, but Myriam's continued employment doesn't come from a place of compassion but a place of pity and those aren't the same thing at all. We'll never know if things would have been different if Myriam and Paul had treated Louise a little differently, but however much I felt sorry for someone I'd like to think I'd still remove them from my life if I felt like my children weren't entirely safe. That's not to say I blame Myriam and Paul for what happens, the only person to blame is Louise because she is the murderer, but at times I found it hard to believe that they would continue to employ her.
I was hoping to like Lullaby a lot more than I did. I didn't hate it by any means and there are lots of good things about it, but what's made me the most uneasy is that Lullaby is actually based on a true story. This is something I didn't know until I'd finished reading it, but a nanny was found guilty of killing two children, very similarly to the way Louise kills Myriam and Paul's children, in New York in 2012. In fact when I looked into it I discovered she has only been sentenced this year. This is just a personal thing, but I really didn't like that I'd read a novel that is so similar to something that happened so recently. Those parents in New York will be grieving for the rest of their lives, but it must still be so fresh having to wait six years for their nanny to be found guilty and now there's this novel bouncing around heavily based on their story that's trying to make the nanny look sympathetic. For me it just felt a little insensitive.
Would I recommend it? Yes, if you can handle the subject matter. The way it's written is beautiful and it does have a lot to say about race and class and the way we sometimes take advantage of our employees, but unfortunately I didn't like this one as much as I'd hoped I would.
Having read the blurb above you will know that this is a horrific tale involving the violent and bloody murder of 2 young children and the involvement of the nanny. It's harsh, blunt and very graphic in places and a very uncomfortable read throughout. The opening chapter starts with the killing of the children and then the story takes us back through the narration of the Nanny, Louise and the mother, Myriam.
In places it's heartbreaking and the underlying tone is dread and despair and I'd be lying if I said it's an enjoyable read as the subject matter is so awful. However, the writing style, the quick and fast paced narration was compelling. I particularly enjoyed the pace and felt there was no padding or unnecessary narration - it appeared almost simple and to the point throughout,which I found addictive and captivating.
The only reason I didn't give this book 5 stars is that it ended too soon (the book is only 224 pages) and I felt that having invested in these characters I could have easily read more.
I did feel the ending was rushed and unsatisfying, especially as I didn’t feel empathy for any of the characters, even the children.
However, this book, for me, was a fascinating and disturbing insight into relationships gone wrong. No character is especially likeable, some are frightening, and the fact that the book opens with the ending - the death of a child - means there is no secret waiting to be revealed. What is revealed, throughout the extent of the book, however, is the complex details of the relationships and resentments that lead to this tragedy.