The Nanny Diaries
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus (Adult Fiction)
“There are essentially three types of nanny gigs. Type A, I provide ‘couple time’ a few nights a week for people who work all day and parent most nights. Type B, I provide ‘sanity time’ a few afternoons a week to a woman who mothers most days and nights. Type C, I’m brought in as one of a cast of many to collectively provide twenty-four/seven ‘me time’ to a woman who neither works nor mothers. And her days remain a mystery to us all.” Nan would categorize Mrs. X as definitely a Type C. In her final year at NYU, Nan is juggling school, her roommate’s obnoxious and hairy boyfriend, a self-absorbed boss, a promising romance, and a precocious four-year old by the name of Grayer. As Mrs. X becomes increasingly more demanding—while blurring the lines between hired help and servant—Nan begins to wonder how much she can possibly bear for the sake of a single child.
Authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus have worked for over thirty New York City families and claim that their story of Mrs. X and her family is entirely fictional and not based on an actual family. Let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief and hope that’s true. To imagine such a cold, disconnected, passive-aggressive, self-entitled woman and an equally despicable, philandering, and narcissistic man actually being parents that possess such a profound and everlasting effect on another human being is beyond the pale and frightening to think about. As loathsome characters go, let’s not leave out our poor and hapless Nanny…Nan for short. Although she has a genuine regard for Grayer and clearly has his welfare in mind, one cannot overlook her obvious lack of a spine, as well as dignity and self-respect. One of my biggest pet peeves is a person—either real or imaginary—who complains constantly about his or her current circumstances, but does not a single, solitary thing to remedy it (Kathy Nicolo from House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III quickly comes to mind). Nan hates her employer and despises her current living situation yet she refuses to quit or move. Either she’s unimaginably loyal or really likes being miserable. Unfortunately, when Nan is miserable, she shares her misery with us and then WE become miserable and unless you’re Job, being subjected to perpetual pain and suffering is not all that it’s cracked up to be.
Don’t get me wrong. The Nanny Diaries isn’t the worst book I’ve ever read and it does contain some self-deprecating humor, but the deplorable supporting characters and a whiny main character make this an overall annoying read resulting in an unpleasant (and yes, miserable) experience. The only character with heart who deserves any semblance of sympathy is Grayer who represents any child who was conceived to be nothing more than an accessory worn on the arm versus a being to be held in your heart.
If you want an insight into the world of high-priced fashion designers and luxury brand names (Chanel, Prada, Judith Leiber, Lalique, Ferragamo, Armani, Gucci), then this is the book for you. If you are looking for a heartwarming and feel-good story about nannies and the children in their care, amble down the children’s section of your local library or bookseller and check out the adventures of Mary Poppins or Nurse Matilda. You’ll find nary a Hermès bag or Manolo Blahnik pump in these stories, but you might feel a little better about the world and those among us who have more money than manners…unless you like feeling miserable and then the Book of Job is right up your alley.
*Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com
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