Reviews of The Caretakers by Amanda Bestor-Siegal

The Caretakers

A Novel

by Amanda Bestor-Siegal

The Caretakers by Amanda Bestor-Siegal X
The Caretakers by Amanda Bestor-Siegal
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Apr 2022, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis
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About this Book

Book Summary

Set in a wealthy Parisian suburb, an emotionally riveting debut told from the point of view of six women, and centered around a group of au pairs, one of whom is arrested after a sudden and suspicious tragedy strikes her host family - a dramatic exploration of identity, class, and caregiving from a profoundly talented new writer.

Paris, 2015. A crowd gathers outside the Chauvet home in the affluent suburban community of Maisons-Larue, watching as the family's American au pair is led away in handcuffs after the sudden death of her young charge. The grieving mother believes the caretaker is to blame, and the neighborhood is thrown into chaos, unsure who is at fault—the enigmatic, young foreigner or the mother herself, who has never seemed an active participant in the lives of her children.

The truth lies with six women: Géraldine, a heartbroken French teacher struggling to support her vulnerable young students; Lou, an incompetent au pair who was recently fired by the family next door; Charlotte, a chilly socialite and reluctant mother; Nathalie, an isolated French teenager desperate for her mother's attention; Holly, a socially anxious au pair yearning to belong in her adopted country; and finally, Alena, the one accused of the crime, who has gone to great lengths to avoid emotional connection, and now finds herself caught in the turbulent power dynamics of her host family's household.

Set during the weeks leading up to the event, The Caretakers is a poignant and suspenseful drama featuring complicated women. It's a sensitive exploration of the weight of secrets, the pressures of country, community, and family—and miscommunications and misunderstandings that can have fatal consequences.

Prologue

The Chauvet house is the only one on the block without a gate, not because the Chauvets can't afford the privacy, but because they want passersby to admire their front yard. They would deny this if anyone were to suggest it, but the motive is there in the fountain, the constellation of topiaries, the cluster of Lalanne sheep sculptures (acquired after some maneuvering by the wife, whose friendships with well-known artists somehow ambush most conversations).

The most interesting attraction in the Chauvets' yard, however, cannot be credited to the family (through their unintended efforts—yes, perhaps): the crumpled form of Charlotte Chauvet herself, knees hitting the grass, as a stretcher carrying her youngest son is ferried outside. It's a crisp March evening, the last of the month, sky finally slipping through the gray. The residents of Maisons-Larue take their first evening walks of spring. Those who pass the Chauvet house stop to watch the show, the firework of ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Debut novelist Amanda Bestor-Siegal's storytelling eviscerates a culture where childcare is often undervalued and appearances can be deceiving. Each main character—and indeed, the entire city of Paris—exists in a blur of anxiety wrought by the 2015 terrorist attacks. The author consistently braids this collective, social angst with characters' individual yearnings, insecurities and grievances. In a world where acts of political terror can bring a city to its knees, people also wield uncanny powers to inflict personal harm upon friends or family...continued

Full Review Members Only (815 words).

(Reviewed by Karen Lewis).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The mysterious death of a French child is blamed on an American au pair—but there's more to the story....A well-paced narrative that moves through time and multiple perspectives with deft precision, this is a heart-wrenching exploration of who counts as family and how dangerous it can be to let someone in. A novel about the 'people who aren't completely part of the family' and the true cost of belonging.

Booklist
Lyrically written and contemplative, pulling the reader into a complex web of vivid characters. Bestor-Siegal brings an authentic perspective from her own experiences living in France. A perfect book-group title, especially for Francophiles.

Publishers Weekly
While it takes a while to understand how each story and character connects to Julien's murder due to the slow progression of the plot, Bestor-Siegal excels at character development. Once the author gets going, she cracks open an intriguing world.

Author Blurb Elizabeth McCracken, author of Bowlaway and The Souvenir Museum
How rare this is, a book—a first book—that has it all. The Caretakers is thrilling and deeply moving, gorgeously written and intricately plotted, morally complex and surprising and sweeping and intimate, with some of the most indelible and heart-breaking characters I have ever encountered in a novel. It's a bold and brilliant book.

Author Blurb Laura Dave, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Last Thing He Told Me
Amanda Bestor-Siegal's emotionally riveting debut novel focuses on several dynamic women in a wealthy suburb of Paris and a tragic event that changes their lives. Bestor-Siegal had me at Paris and she never let go. The Caretakers is extraordinary.

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Beyond the Book

Au Pair Exchanges

Woman holding book in front of two young girls The novel The Caretakers centers on several young women who are au pairs in France, living there on special visas that allow them to stay with a family, take language classes and immerse themselves for a year in Parisian social life.

The term "au pair" refers to a (usually young) person who lives with a family in a foreign country in exchange for performing childcare-related tasks. "Au pair" is a phrase of French origin meaning "at par," referring to the idea of an agreement made between equals: An au pair does domestic work for the family; in the meantime, the family provides room and board (and generally, a weekly stipend).

Au pair exchanges have been common in Europe since the era following World War II, and have gained ground...

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