Perfect Nanny (Slimani) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for The Perfect Nanny … then take off on your own:

1. Do you see this this novel as a guilt trip for working moms—inspiring a sense of maternal inadequacy?

2. What do you think of Myriam and her husband Paul? In what way would you call them needy?

3. Why doesn't Myriam, who is Moroccan-French, want to hire a North African nanny? She admits that she would worry about "immigrant solidarity." What does she mean?

4. Myriam tells friends, "My nanny is a miracle worker." What does that statement suggest a) about Myriam and … b) about her relation with Louise?

5. What do you think of the fact that when Myriam goes shopping "she hides the new clothes in an old cloth bag and only opens them once Louise has gone." Paul praises her for being "tactful." What is your take on Myriam's tactfulness?

6. How are mothers in general portrayed in this novel? Consider the description of mothers sitting on park benches "starring into space" or the mother who has just given birth and who still carries around "her body of pain and secretions.… This flesh that she drags around with her, which she gives no care or rest."

7. Follow-up to Question 6: If you are a mother, do the narrator's depictions of motherhood resonate with you—the desire to continue a career outside the home, the feeling of guilt … or perhaps the opposite: the feeling that you shouldn't stay at home, that you should pursue a career?

8. How do you feel about Louise (absent the fact that we know she has a murdered two children)? What do we learn about her background: why she's so obsessive, for instance, about her own mothering skills?
 
9. Follow-up to Question 8: Talk about this observation of Louise by Myriam: I had the feeling that she was like a plate that you put every day on the table, and she breaks every day a little bit. And one day you put it on the table and she breaks into pieces." What does Myriam mean? Is it a fair assessment of Louise?

10. Talk about the first sentence of the novel, even the first paragraph. How did it make you feel as you read it?

11. How would you describe the narrative voice in The Perfect Nanny? In what way does it contribute to a sense of dread...or horror?

12. Does knowing that this novel is based on a real case of child murder by a nanny (in New York City) affect your reading experience?

13. This isn't a whodunnit. It's a whydunnit. Why does Louise murder the children? Is her motivation ever fully explained?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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