Earlier this year, I went a bit mad on NetGalley and requested a lot of ARCs. It didn’t occur to me that I’d get approved for all of them but that’s what happened. So, this month I’m madly trying to get through them all. Most of them are already out but a few are set to be published next month. This one was published this week. It was a great premise but I’ve been burnt by books like this before. Would it live up to its potential?
I’m getting tired of books that start by describing the aftermath of a horrific crime and then slowly unfolding the events of the weeks before it. I get why so many writers do it but I’m certain that there are other ways to create drama. Especially as the technique only drags out the inevitable. It means that, when you figure out the truth early on, it’s a painstakingly slow reading experience with very little payoff.
The Caretakers opens with the death of a young boy and the arrest of his American au pair. The event causes quite a stir in the affluent suburban community of Maisons-Larue. It’s a community of families who hire foreigners to watch their children as they enjoy lavish lifestyles. The kind of housewives who love gossip. Needless to say, news of the event quickly spreads.
Through the stories of six women, we learn what happened in the lead up to the tragic moment. We see the weeks prior from the viewpoint of women personally connected with the family of the accused. There’s Geraldine, the teacher schooling the au pairs in speaking French; Lou and Holly, two au pairs; Charlotte, the boy’s mother; Nathalie, her sulky teenage daughter, and Alena, the accused. What can we discover about these women and their involvement in proceedings?
I had high hopes for this book but was a little disappointed. It’s a concept that we’ve seen a thousand times before and one that has been executed better. We do learn a lot about these women but I didn’t really care about them. I couldn’t escape the feeling that this was all just dragging out the inevitable reveal. Plus, these are all stereotypical characters that appear in countless other books. The troubled youth who escapes her family by moving to another country. The rich girl pretending to be poor. The bored housewife who hates her husband. None of these characters are interesting enough to warrant the time we spend getting to know them.
Then there’s the fact that the story isn’t even that interesting. Yes, the writer opens with the death of a child which many will deem dark and daring. As the story goes on, it becomes pretty obvious what’s going on and who is responsible. Unfortunately, when you do figure it out, you’ll still have over half the book to go. Meaning it’s quite a slog to get to the end. Yes, the author throws a few references to the terrorist attacks that took place in Paris and Brussels but it doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s basically just included to give everyone a ‘life is fleeting ‘ revelation. It feels shoehorned in.
This is an ambitious book and I do see what she was trying to achieve. However, there’s just too much going down. You’re slowly wading through so much detail but it’s adding very little to the story. I normally love a character study but this was some basic exploration. Everything is surface level and all very clichéd. Just because you write a lot, it doesn’t mean there’s any depth there. It’s a shame because this could have been so good. The Caretakers is trying to be something like Nothing Can Hurt You but it’s just kind of dull and forgettable.