Just as America became engulfed in Gone Girl and Girl on the Train last year, France became obsessed with Chanson Douce, the story of a killer nanny. Chanson Douce was written by Goncourt prize-winner Leïla Slimani in 2016 and is inspired by a true story.
In 2012, a New York nanny killed two children she was babysitting. After a failed attempt to kill herself, the mother returned home and found her with the murdered children in the bathroom. The nanny explained that she was fed up with the extra duties the parents had asked her to take on.
Slimani’s fictional story based on the New York infanticides introduces us to Louise, named after Louise Woodward, a young British nanny who in 1997 was convicted of involuntary manslaughter of the 8-month-old child she cared for. In the novel, Louise is employed by Myriam, an upper-middle class working mother.
The New Yorker’s excerpt reads:
Slimani’s novel sold more than 600,000 copies in the first year of publication. Paris-based Slimani was the most-read author in France in 2016, and Chanson Douce has since been translated into 18 different languages.
The American version will be published in January under the name The Perfect Nanny.
New Yorker writer Lauren Collins makes an important point about this narrative. As taboo and shocking as the subject matter is, the underlying theme of women exploring their desires is what stands out amidst the flashback scenes leading up to the unspeakable crime. Myriam wants success and work. Louise wants to be needed by Myriam and her husband Paul.
This novel is much more than a fictionalized retelling of a horrid true event. Slimani dives into each and every character as she leaves you wondering who is actually to blame for the crime. Once it hits American shelves, Chanson Douce will be a must-read.