French author Leila Slimane brings new life to the literary thriller with a distinctly feminist take on the genre. In her novel ‘Adele’ there are echos of much older French novels such as ‘Madame Bovary’ and ‘Therese Desqueyroux’ in her depiction of an unhappily married woman who can not quite understand the source of her unhappiness but is compelled to cheat repeatedly and obsessively on her husband .
While ‘The Perfect Nanny’ imagines every parents nightmare scenario: the nanny who is not quite what she seems. In this novel Slimane, who is of Moroccan descent, reverses the traditional nanny mother relationship by having the nanny be a poor white woman and the middle-class mother be of mixed race. She then begins to slowly reveal the unraveling of the nanny showing her secret life of debt, brutality and constant insecurity. The idea of a woman who does not truly feel connected to children will surely strike a cord with many a mother and Slimane mines this to show the impossibility of fulfilling this saintly role.
Short compelling and brutally true to life, both ‘Adele’ and ‘The Perfect Nanny’ don’t pull any punches or reach for simple explanations of either woman’s actions. Such reductions as saying ‘Well, Adele is a sex addict’ or ‘the nanny is a psychopath’ are firmly rejected. Instead we are left with the reality that we are often complete strangers to our own motivations and actions.