Entrusting your child to someone else is a giant leap of faith, whether it's a babysitter for a night out, or a full-time nanny. That's why Lullaby, the second novel by French-Moroccan journalist Leila Slimani, is sending shivers up the spines of parents all over the world.
It is the story of a nanny who, without warning, murders her two young charges. The reader learns this on the first page – the rest of the book is a flashback.
Myriam is a stay-at-home mum who has a law degree but has never practised. Paul works in the music industry. They live in a good part of Paris and have two young children, Mila and Adam. When Myriam decides to return to work, they need a nanny. Louise comes with impeccable references and immediately clicks with the couple and their children.
Within weeks she's made herself indispensable. It all seems too good to be true – until the day Louise murders the children.
As a mother who has used babysitters since my son was young, I immediately asked myself what Paul and Myriam could have done differently. The answer – nothing. They spoke to Louise's former employer, and saw how well she interacted with their children from the word go.
Everything seemed to be going swimmingly. Which makes the denouement all the more chilling; it could happen to any of us.
So is Lullaby's message that parents use childminders at their peril? Is that really a conversation we want to be having? Any parent will tell you that at some point they've felt guilty about leaving their child in someone else's care. None of us needs more guilt in our lives. Lullaby is a great read but don't take it to heart.