Sunday, 20 May 2018

Another disappointing book on a long weekend...

I’m happy to have an extra day off this weekend.  Perhaps I will use the extra time to carefully choose a book that will be engaging and satisfying, rather than disappointing.  Thank goodness my cup of chai and delicious Date Bar are never a disappointment!
Yesterday I finished reading the selection for my next Friends Book Club meeting, which will be taking place in a week.  We will be discussing The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani, a novel that got many rave reviews and won France’s most prestigious literary prize in 2016.  This novel tells the story of Myriam and Paul Massé, parents to two young children, Mila and Adam. When Myriam decides to go back to work, they search high and low for a nanny to care for their children, and finally come across Louise, a slight, blond, middle-aged woman with a glowing reference from a friend.  She appears to be a miracle-worker, able to organize the chaotic apartment, pull off fabulous children’s parties, whip up delicious dinners, stay late, arrive early, and yet remain in the shadows; in short, she seems to be the perfect nanny. But when she becomes obsessed with the children and the family, and her fear of being made redundant takes over, her hold on reality begins to slip, and her unstable past catches up with her until she snaps and murders both children.  (I didn’t just give anything away - this is revealed in the very first paragraph.) The novel explores the growing interdependence between Louise and the Massé family, and Louise’s eventual mental breakdown. I love these kinds of books! The kind where the psyche of the main character is dissected and explored to discover how they transformed from seemingly “normal” individuals to people who commit heinous crimes (The Woman Upstairs, The Scold’s Bridle, even We Need to Talk About Kevin, to name just a few).  And I found the first few chapters to be really gripping, leading me to believe that I was in for a great read.  Alas, I lost interest about a third of the way into this brief novel, for a number of reasons. I thought the characters were not very credible.  I felt that the novel lacked plot or storyline, and I found the timeline to be quite confusing. I thought the language was over-the-top, and the descriptions of events and things was excessive.  And I wondered how Myriam could possibly continue to leave her very young children in the care of Louise after she begins to suspect the nanny’s obsession with them, particularly after a very gruesome scene during which Louise addresses what she perceives as Myriam’s wastefulness.  But what do I know? I clearly have a totally different opinion of this book than the many professional reviewers out there, as well as the French literary judges! I wonder if this novel did not translate well from the original French into English, but I can’t believe that it could make this much of a difference. It just makes me wonder how I could have such a completely different view of this book than the reviewers, to the point where it makes me wonder if we've even read the same book!  Anyway, it’s an award-winner, and it’s short, so read it if you are interested. I’m so curious to hear what my other book club members say about this book.
That’s all for today.  Get outside and enjoy the day!
Bye for now…
Julie

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