LULLABY by Leila Slimani

A morality tale for our times - chilling, too close for comfort - that supposedly most benign of people, the family nanny and how it can all go so terribly wrong. In the family home two children are dead, there is blood everywhere, the nanny has been taken to hospital. There is never any question as to who the killer is, but I kept hoping  in my reading that someone else was responsible.

As parents, and I am will be treading on toes here, more specficially as mothers,  we are torn between two polar forces - being a Mum, caring for and nurturing our precious children, with all the stress, pressure, exhaustion, and tedium that goes along with it; and being our own person, continuing and maintaining the career that has been put on hold, friendships, interests, holidays, a life that we had before children. When children come along, one parent has to make the sacrifice, usually the mother, as unfair and unequal as it may be. So the Nanny - next best thing to Mum. But how little do we really know about the people we entrust our beloved children to.

This novel, made more perfect by being just on 200 pages, captures the dilemma of Myriam who has the opportunity to return to her legal career, and yet has to find the right person to look after her two children. Musician husband Paul is in favour of the idea, but does not make things easy for Myriam; I would say sub-consciously believing that the mother is the best person to look after small children. Louise comes along, seemingly perfect, and bonds immediately with the two children. But Louise has not had an easy or happy life, or even a good life, and over time her overwhelming baggage spills out.

It is the writing that pushes this story to a higher level than what you may think is a bunny-boiler-domestic-horror. The author is inside the minds and emotions of the parents, particularly Myriam, and of course Louise. The tragedy is an event that has been waiting to happen for Louise, it was inevitable really, it could be any family she has worked for in past years, or it may well have been the next family she would be a nanny for. For Myriam and Paul the tragedy came to them. 

A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman

It's a movie in Swedish, please someone make it into a movie in English! It is a simply wonderful heart warming beautiful story. I loved it, adored it, it made me cry. What a treasure of a story. There is no getting past that Ove, who is actually only 59, is the quintessential grumpy old bugger. With a lifetime of pain, disappointment and struggle, culminating in the recent death of his beloved wife, all he now wants to do is die himself. But his wretched neighbours prevent this happening at every turn, every attempt. No one seems to understand he wants to be left alone, no one seems to have the same standard of care and respect for the neighbourhood they all live, he is just so sick of everything.

But slowly, gradually, despite Ove's considerable resistance those barriers are broken down. Without even being aware of it, Ove rejoins the human race, and starts living again. Wonderful.