19 March 2007

Book Review: The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus

New Year's Reading Resolution #5

The Nanny Diaries Looking for a job to pay her way through her final year of college, Nan stumbles upon what seems the perfect opportunity. The hours are flexible, the pay is good, the kid is cute, and the mother seems pleasant. It’s only after she accepts the position as four-year-old Grayer’s nanny that Mrs X can be ... somewhat demanding, to say the least. Employment soon devolves into exploitation, but Nan is too attached to Grayer to abandon him, no matter how much of her own life she’s forced to give up. And her quandary becomes even more complicated when she discovers that Mr X - who must set some kind of gold standard of paternal uninvolvement - is having an affair with a colleague in Chicago. Whatever will Nan do?

This book is pretty much the childcare industry’s The Devil Wears Prada. Girl accepts what appears to be dream job working for filthy rich woman. Girl discovers she has the boss from hell, who has absolutely no concept of what constitutes a reasonable demand. Girl decides to stay, despite having to sacrifice ever more of her own life, and the pleas of her family and friends. Last straw arrives and girl quits moments before being fired, taking some possession of her former employer’s with her (in this case, the new, unwanted puppy). I’d have thought she’d get suspicious when, chatting to Grayer’s outgoing nanny, Nan discovered the poor girl had no idea she was about to be sent back to Australia. It was all downhill from there, and I really couldn’t understand why she stayed. If it was me being made constantly late for class, I’d have written out my notice, dumped the kid with the doorman, and left. Nor would I have wasted time and energy worrying about an affair that was none of my business. Well, okay, so there was Grayer to think of, but I am lacking any semblance of maternal instinct so Nan’s devotion to him was somewhat beyond my comprehension.

The use of obvious pseudonyms - Nanny and the Xes - lent it a tabloid-exposé air, but it just seemed absurd when other people referred to them as such. And even my considerable ability to suspend disbelief failed in the face of a child development consultant who inquired whether Grayer was translating the colours and sizes in his wardrobe into Latin. Fierce competition for kindergarten places I could buy, but this? This was a concept my working-class mind could not grasp. And when Nan finally did quit, it wasn’t because of the excessive demands but because she found out about the Nannycam. Personally I’d think nearly missing her thesis defence would have trumped that, but apparently not.

Mildly amusing, but just not my style.

Rating: C-


Anonymous said...

i've read this and disliked it too. i hate how the nanny and andy sachs from the devil wears prada would endure so much shit from their bosses and leave quietly. possibly, that's a realistic take because most people in their situations would do that; maybe i would do that too. then again, i would never let myself be exploited like that in the first place.

my point is that i wish they'd left with some sizzle. after all so much of the plot is exaggerated and obviously fictionalised, so why not the ending too?

Anonymous said...

I used to have this on my TBR shelf, but the more I looked at it, the more I decided it just wasn't my taste either, so I ended up giving it away. For books like these (another example is Devil Wears Prada), I'll just wait for the movie to come out on DVD.

Amat Libris said...

Sulz: Hear hear! At least Andy left with thousands of dollars worth of designer clothes. All Nan got was the dog. And since she had a week left on her lease and no new apartment, I couldn't help but wonder how she was going to take care of the poor thing.

Lesley: Sounds like a good plan!

Carrie said...

Well, thanks for the review! I had seen the book and thought it looked interested. It sounds like a "pass" though. Good to know. Thanks!

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