I know that in the sidebar of this page I said that most of my reviews are positive since I don’t often finish books I don’t like, and I will not review a book I didn’t finish. Well… The Perfect Nanny was short, and it was listed as one of the 10 best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, and Entertainment Weekly gave it an honorable mention, and it was a finalist for the Edgar Award and a national best-seller, so I kept reading, even though it failed to ever really grab me. I was curious if at some point it would live up to the hype.
For me, it didn’t. It reminded me of another much-hyped book that I started a few months ago, Sweetbitter, about someone working in the restaurant business. That one I did stop reading, once I realized that I didn’t care about any of the characters, and that the writing style was more about being literary than emotionally compelling. Call me crass, but I much prefer an engaging story with a likeable, or at least a compelling, protagonist. The Perfect Nanny was not my preference.
It was written in 3rd person omniscient POV, an unusual choice nowadays for popular fiction, and it gave the story a clinical feel, like it was an objective account of this horrific story, and the reader is meant to be kept at arm’s length. I suppose if it was written any other way the story would be unbearable, because it begins with an account of how this “perfect” nanny murdered the two young children she watched, and then she tried to kill herself. The rest of the book was then an unemotional narrative of how the parents came to have children, hire a nanny, and how the nanny had a breakdown. Except, there were a lot of pieces missing and the story ends without the reader really knowing what led the nanny, Louise, to snap. Instead, we’re giving random details about passing characters throughout the story that seem irrelevant.
I don’t understand why critics loved this book so much. None of the characters were likable and it didn’t make me feel anything except regret. I don’t recommend it.