Monday, March 25, 2019

Be Aware of Life-Voyeurs

Unhappy psychotic personalities with a propension to voyeurism left unattended could be lethal. 
Louise looks like the perfect babysitter: serious, trustworthy, knowledgeable, loved by the children, furiously cleaning the house and cooking perfect meals. Since she entered the life of Paul and Myriam a successful young couple from Paris and especially of their children, Mila and Adam, they can easily take care of their jobs and social responsibilities while Louise is diligently in charge with the everyday childcare. 'She has only one desire: to create a world with them, to find her place and live there to dig herself a niche, a burrow, a warm hiding place'.
If Louise has a house, a body or a history, we will be only parsimonously informed once in a while, as the main focus of the story is on the babysitter at work and her interactions with her employers and the children. Nothing suspect at the first sight, and if not the tragic end -when she is killing the two children with a ceramic sushi knife - because she was became aware that most probably her days in the service of the family are counted, it would be just a short story about boring babysitters. 
But Louise has a life and a body and a history and a house. A mediocre life, ridden by debts, with a runaway daughter and a late husband that died and left her in deep debt. She was always a sought-after babysitter. She is lonely and without friends or a serious partner. In her silences, the tension that will lead to the dramatic ending is building up piece by piece. 'She has the strange certainty that all strugle is futile. That all she can do is let evets carry her away, wash her over, overwhelm her, while she remain passive and inert'. Until the calamity hit and it is way too late.
The story is built backwards, trying to recreate and explain the possible reasons of the crime. In the end, not the detective-like reconstruction matters but the ways in which Louise's behavior sent various signals outside, not fully took into consideration. Civilized people we are hardly able to notify the abnormal behavior and predict crimes and dramas because we've lost the fine detection sensors of wilderness. 
The book, originally written in French, awarded with the prestigious Goncourt Prize, is more about human weakness and incapacity to predict evil, as well as about the fragile border between perfection and the evil intentions. Sometimes because maybe the human nature is simply not capable to seize the dangers.
I've found the ideas interesting, although maybe would have expect more dramatism and fine construction. However, Leila Slimani is an author whose next books would be curious to read, eventually in the original language.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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