My Instagram book club, @criminallygoodbookclub, voted on The Au Pair as our January book – a brilliant book choice to kick off the year!
Seraphine Mayes and her brother Danny are known as the summer-born Summerbournes: the first set of summer twins to be born at Summerbourne House. But on the day they were born their mother threw herself to her death, their au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark-cloaked figures and a stolen baby.
Now twenty-five, and mourning the recent death of her father, Seraphine uncovers a family photograph taken on the day the twins were born featuring both parents posing with just one baby. Seraphine soon becomes fixated with the notion that she and Danny might not be twins after all, that she wasn’t the baby born that day and that there was more to her mother’s death than she has ever been told…
Why did their beloved au pair flee that day?
Where is she now?
Does she hold the key to what really happened?
The Au Pair has this fantastic haunting atmosphere to it, and you get this real sense of loneliness surrounding Seraphine, this need to fit in, to belong. The atmosphere was perhaps my favourite thing about this novel, along with the literary nature of it, the writing just draws you in; so, if you’re a fan of literary thrillers, you may really like this one!
The narration is divided between Seraphine’s first-person perspective in the present day, and perspective of the au pair, Laura, in 1991. Together they build up a picture of ‘then’ and ‘now’, how the past and present are entwined, and what happens when they collide.
Seraphine’s character was brilliant, showcasing themes of identity and belonging, how important it is to know yourself to be able to find your place in the world. But, perhaps, the most interesting character in this novel was the au pair; if I could sit down with any one character and discuss the past, and hear more about their experience of living at Summerbourne, and their views on the decisions made, it would be with Laura.
What’s great about this novel is, from the beginning, you get a sense that something is not quite right, and you even have an inkling as to what the outcome of the mystery is, but you can’t quite piece it all together – you have all the pieces, but they’re just not fitting, and that’s what makes this novel such a compelling read.
All the way to it’s shocking ending, I enjoyed this book, the ending is set up in the best way – the mystery is revealed, the ending isn’t left open, but it’s written in such a way that ensures you stay thinking about it! The psychology of this one comes in you, the reader, trying to understand the actions of these characters, whether you agree with their actions, or not, is secondary to the intriguing nature of the lives they’ve lived.
The cover of this novel is sleek and stylish, and that is an exact representation of the story told – a sleek and stylish thriller, literary and atmospheric, haunting and satisfying, highly recommended!