Rating: 4 / 5
Emma Rous’ The Au Pair is a slow-burning and effortlessly interesting thriller about one young woman’s attempt to evade her troubled home life, and another young woman’s desire to know more about her family and who she is.
In 1991, Laura applied for a job as an au pair for a wealthy English family living in a small village well outside of London. Summerbourne, the family’s beloved property, became Laura’s escape from a distressing home life. She believes that she’s hit the jackpot in landing this job and relishes her time at Summerbourne, away from the hustle and bustle of London and surrounded by beautiful cliffs and beaches.
In present day, Seraphine is grieving the recent death of her father. She has holed herself up in Summerbourne and starts down a daunting rabbit hole – why is she so different from her twin brother, Danny? Why did their mother kill herself on the day of their birth? And why, in the only picture she can find of her childhood, is there only one baby present? Seraphine starts by looking for Laura, her older brother, Edwin’s, au pair during the summer that she and Danny were born.
Will Laura’s new job continue to be as wonderful as she believed? Will she be able to escape what she’s run away from in London? And can Seraphine find answers about who she is and what happened to her mother all those years ago?
Please take caution while reading The Au Pair if any of the following topics may trigger you:
- Death or dying
- Pregnancy / childbirth
- Miscarriages / abortion
The Au Pair is a very solid psychological thriller. It’s unique in that the “thriller” part doesn’t really ramp up until the end, but everything before that is still so interesting. Rous is able to hold your attention and interest through masterful storytelling, alternating between time periods that ultimately connect with each other, and lots of potential suspects and red herrings.
The basis of the story is immensely interesting. A woman works for a family, and then 25 years later, a child of that family isn’t confident in who she is. We know Laura knows that happened that summer, and we know that Seraphine is looking for the answers – but will they ever connect? Information is provided very slowly, and while there are several suspects, you’ll have no idea where the story will go. Even without the thriller aspect of the story, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Laura’s experiences at Summerbourne.
Alternating time periods is a fairly common tactic used in psychological thrillers, but Rous takes it to another level. Every other chapter flips between the early 90’s and present day, and with it a different narrator. Laura narrates her experiences at Summerbourne, while Seraphine narrates her search for the truth about herself and her family. Laura’s story masterfully relates to Seraphine’s self-discovery, and the stories evolve congruently. You’ll have no idea who may be to blame for the family secrecy.
I seriously enjoyed The Au Pair. It’s a unique psychological thriller, peppered with entrancing descriptions of Summerbourne and fascinating family drama throughout. Fans of thrillers and family dramas will surely find something to love within this story.
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on The Au Pair. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya.