When the latest book from the Mumsnet Book Club landed on my doorstep, Lullaby by Leila Slimani, I instantly knew that this was a very different book to the others. Some of the books so far have had me laughing out loud, wiping away my tears, and questioning my beliefs on a whole host of subjects, and yet none have left me feeling quite the way that this months book did.
The first line of the novel simply reads,
“The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds.”
And instantly I found myself torn between wanting to read on, as fast as I could, trying to find out what happened, who did it, and what their reasons for such a despicable act could possibly be, and closing the book, hiding it away and forgetting it even existed.
As a Mother I found myself wanting to do the latter, knowing that such a subject matter would be heart-wrenching to read and no doubt would leave me reeling afterwards. And yet as part of the book club, I knew that I had to carry on reading and, in all honest, I was compelled to do so by some morbid curiosity as to how the story unfolds.
The story begins with Paul and Myriam, a successful Parisian couple with two beautiful children and, after Myriam’s decision to return to work after an extended period of time as a stay at home mum, the couple decide that a nanny would be the answer to their problems.
And along comes Louise.
Lousie is initially a quiet and polite lady who is both gentle and kind towards the children and Paul and Myriam too. We read how she forms a close, and loving, bond with the children, how she acts as a real crutch for Myriam who is struggling with post natal depression and how, initially, she seems to be the glue really holding the family together.
We soon realise that Louise is not all that she seems, her relationship with her own child has broken down, she lives in poverty, and is clearly battling her own demons. It’s quite unsettling to see these facts reveal themselves knowing that two innocent children are in the hands of someone who is so far removed form the persona she presents.
Mental health is a recurring theme throughout the book and although outwardly Myriam and Louise are very different, mental health connects them in more ways than one. Both ladies strive to appear in control of their lives, to be successful in their jobs, and present a perfect image, even at the detriment to their own wellbeing. Although Louise’s mental health is by no means an excuse for her actions at the end of the story, it does make the reader see just how catastrophic mental illness can be should it not be addressed and treated accordingly.
I found the end of the story both devastatingly sad and incredibly frustrating. There are no answers, no explanations, no means of understanding Louise’s motives for such an abhorrent act, and it is down to us as a reader to depict what we can from the story and our own imaginations.
Lullaby is undoubtedly one of the darkest, most disturbing books I have read in a long time and yet I found it strangely compelling, completely mesmerising, and I know that it will stay with me for a long time to come.
Lullaby is available to buy here at Amazon.
** I was sent this book for the purpose of the Mumsnet Book Club. All words and opinions are my own. **