Book Review: The Caretakers by Amanda Bestor-Siegal

About the Book:

In the smart Parisian suburb of Maisons-Larue, in the wake of the Paris 2015 terrorist attacks, an au pair is arrested after the sudden and suspicious death of her nine-year-old charge…

The truth behind what happened is unravelled through six women: Geraldine, a heartbroken French teacher who struggles to connect with her vulnerable students; Lou, an incompetent au pair fired by the family next door; Charlotte, a chilly socialite and reluctant mother; Holly, an anxious au pair who yearns to feel at home in Paris; Nathalie, an isolated French teenager desperate for her mother’s attention; and finally, Alena, the au pair accused of killing a child…

For fans of Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, The Caretakers is a compulsive and gripping debut about who takes care of children, the yearning for belonging that extends beyond the homes left behind, and issues of identity, privilege, and class in both American and French culture.

Published by Hachette Australia

Released 12th April 2022

My Thoughts:

This was a terrific novel, unexpected in its style and voice, and I liked it even more for that. Less of a crime story with a focus on who did it and why, rather, The Caretakers is a character study, of six different women. Who they are presently, who they were in the past, and who they want to be. We dip in and out of the past and the present with them, the author employing a fluid sort of prose that takes us and back and forth without any clearly marked now and then, yet it works so well, offering a seamless narrative that is absorbing and gripping all at once.

Predominantly, The Caretakers is a story about displacement. And for each of the characters, a certain form of displacement has occurred to leave them disjointed from their lives, seeking something more without really knowing what that is. There was so much yearning within this story, and I felt it keenly. The author is brilliant at evoking a cloying atmosphere that has you feeling as though you are moving within each character, and even when said character would act in a way that was contrary to what I might have done, I still found myself understanding them on some level, empathising with them.

β€œ…she thinks that maybe this is all it is, the secret weapon against grief. Living.”

Core themes of class, privilege and identity intermingle throughout this novel, set in Paris during 2015 against a backdrop of terror attacks. Not only did the author capture her characters well, but she also conveyed Paris with such authenticity, particularly the cultural atmosphere and general vibe between those who are French, and those who are tourists, most notably, Americans.

If you are looking for a racing crime novel, this is not it, but if you enjoy character driven literary narratives, then you may enjoy The Caretakers as much as I did. Highly recommended.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

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