Leïla Slimani won a famous French literary prize and international fame for her novel Lullaby (published in the US as The Perfect Nanny, if I’m not mistaken, which seems to be an attempt to push it to gain mass appeal). I reviewed it a while back, here. In short, the novel opens in medias res; Louise, the nanny, has killed the children. However, Slimani is focussed almost entirely on developing transient emotion, maternal anxieties, and capturing personality. Lullaby is the kind of book that opens itself up to an infinite number of analyses, and it’s also a book that not everyone will like. It’s not a straight mystery (and I usually like those). It doesn’t provide any answers. What it does provide is a smattering of emotional clues as Slimani navigates what is essentially a story of building emotional upheaval, from individual to family, ultimately culminating in murder.
Slimani’s first book was apparently actually published in 2014, In the Ogre’s Garden, in the original French, and it won the La Mamounia literary award (she was the first woman to win it, apparently). Congolese writer Alain Mabanckou said no man would dare to write such a novel.
So, it was published before Lullaby. But I assume (I’ve not seen any websites which actually directly establish a correspondence between In the Ogre’s Garden and Adèle, but they’ve got the same plot/characters), had not been translated into English till date? Either way.
Author: Leïla Slimani
Expected Publication: 15th Jan, 2019 (but who the hell actually knows)
Publisher: Faber & Faber
One of the things that interested me most about this book is that Slimani said she was inspired by characters in Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary (which I must read now) who were trying to escape their lives. In Adèle, the eponymous heroine, married to a gastroenterologist, is a sex-addict. She leads a double life, one as a successful journalist, married with a son, and another as a woman who struggles to fulfil her physical desires. She is a woman who is slowly losing control of her life by struggling to fill it.
I don’t often read books with a heavy emphasis on sex/romance, and although this book has been lauded as ‘erotic’, I get the impression that the notion has been sufficiently problematised by Slimani. She mentioned that in all the articles she’d read about the subject of sex addiction, none chose to focus on women in specific. Also, being Moroccan, she wanted to use the issue of the suppression of sexuality in Muslim countries as an extreme metaphor, although the novel is set in Paris, I believe. I think this is going to be as complicated and fascinating a book as Lullaby. I’m already sold.