For middle class working mothers, hiring a baby sitter is a necessity. Unfortunately, this requirement sometimes leads to tragedy. On March 1, 2018, the Krim trial began—the case that inspired French writer Leila Slimani’s crime novel “Lullaby.”
The international best-selling novel has already been translated into 18 languages and will be translated into 17 more. Its U.S. title is “The Perfect Nanny,” and it was originally published in France under the title “Chanson Douce.”
The Krim Case and “Lullaby”
In the terrible, real-life story (the Krim case) that inspired the book, a deranged nanny stabbed two young children in 2012. The nanny in the Krim case is a migrant from the Dominican Republic. In Slimani’s book, the nanny is local and one of her employers is an immigrant.
The Krims’ former nanny, Yoselyn Ortega, was mentally ill but had not been treated. The psychiatrist testifying in the case said Ortega didn’t tell the doctor, who had treated her in the past for depression and anxiety, about the voices she heard in her head because she didn’t want people to think she was crazy.
The nanny in Slimani’s book had a damaged past, had found refuge in her employers’ home-life, and feared having to leave after the children grew up. Like Ortega, she first slit the two children’s throats in the bathtub and then slit her own throat in an attempted suicide.
The children’s mother’s first name in the novel is Myriam. The fictional nanny’s name is Louise after another murderous nanny, Louise Woodward, the British nanny convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the U.S. in 1997.
While the former Krim nanny’s trial will reveal whether derangement was the cause for the murder, Slimani’s book explores the motivations of the murderer. The novel is a psychological examination of the killer and other germane issues.
Raising Other Issues
Lelia Slimani raises many important questions in her novel. Can parents trust a nanny? Can parents ever really know their nanny? Should a mother turn her children over to a stranger in favor of a career? The characters’ social, class, and ethnic differences in “Lullaby” touch on many current societal issues.
The contradictions of motherhood, including its demands and sometimes suffocating feelings, are also raised in the book. As a young mother who employs a nanny and was brought up by a nanny herself, the author has an intimate association with the context of employing child caretakers.
The swift popularity of Lelia Slimani’s “Lullaby” indicates that it has touched a nerve with many people in multiple countries. In France and the U.S., movie versions will introduce even more people to the details of Slimani’s book and the Krim case.