Book Reviews

Book Review: The Caretakers

By Amanda Bestor-Seigal

Published April 2022

352 Pages

A gorgeous cover.  A story set in/near Paris.  A mystery involving au pairs.  Yes please! This is a book I had to read.  Unfortunately, it didn’t deliver what the jacket copy promised.

Let me explain.

The book begins with a prologue that takes place immediately after the death of a child under the care of an American au pair.  The promoted storyline was that through the points of view of six women (assumed to be the au pairs), the reader would learn how the child died and, presumably, what led up to the tragedy.  I imagined a tense, suspenseful novel where each point of view would bring the reader closer to the truth.  Perhaps this is simply a case of misplaced expectations, but that’s not what I got.

I want to preface all of this by saying this was an exceptionally well written book and if I’d gone into it with a different mindset, I’d be writing a much different review.

Rather than being a mystery about the death of a child, the death was a plot point – it didn’t drive the novel.  Yes, it was a constant question throughout the book, but it wasn’t the foundation of the story.  This was a novel about belonging and identity – on both a personal and national level. In that regard, it was very well done.

“The Caretakers” interpreted by Wombo Dream

Immediately after the prologue, we know one au pair (Alena) is arrested but the point of view immediately jumps to Lou, a different au pair with a whole other set of issues.  So while her section/chapter was interesting and the author did a fantastic job with her character, Lou’s story took a roundabout route back to her relationship with her sister, her attitude in general, and how she planned to stay in Paris after losing her job.  In other words, her story was only tangentially related to the opening tragedy.

The rest of the book continued in this vein, bringing in new characters that revolved around the death but didn’t help to explain what happened.  Even the chapters told by the child’s mother and sister had more to do with family dynamics than the opening event.

So, while this was a worthy read, it felt more like a day-in-the-life story, a snapshot of each of these women bringing them up to the story’s present.  And in the end, I didn’t get a sense of resolution for any of them.  I read what they did and, in some instances, how their actions contributed to the tragedy, but there was very little closure.  

To wrap up, a wonderfully written novel but just know going in that it’s not about a death so much as it is a character study of these women and how they interact with each other.

I rated this novel 3 stars. ⭐⭐⭐

Until next time, thank you for visiting.

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