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The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus




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Don’t let the Mary Poppins image on the book cover deceive you: The Nanny Diaries is no cherry musical. This first novel by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus presents the relationship between a nanny, her charge, and the couple who employs her. Nan, the Nanny and college student, picks up a part-time non-resident nanny job taking care of Grayer, the only child of a wealthy Park Avenue couple, Mr. and Mrs. X. Nanny is presented as hard working and willing to do anything out of care for Grayer. Mrs. X exploits Nanny at every turn, including expanded household chores and errands, underpaying her, causing Nan to miss meetings or classes, and overall lack of caring about anything to do with Nan. Mr. X neglects Grayer, and cheats on Mrs. X with a subordinate employee of his investment banking firm. Readers glimpse into the dynamics of play dates, overscheduled pre-schoolers, competition for entry to the best elementary schools, working vacations, nanny cams and page upon page of self-centered boorish behavior. Here’s an excerpt of a scene where Nanny expects to be asked about Mrs. X discovery of black lace panties left behind in the apartment by Mr. X’s lover:

“For the past week I’ve been arriving at seven to dress Grayer for school, before dropping him off with Mrs. Butters and running madly down to class. Mrs. X never emerges from her room in the mornings and is out every afternoon, so I was surprised when Connie told me she was waiting for me in her office.
 ‘Mrs. X?’ I knocked on the door.
 ‘Come in.’ I push the door open with slight trepidation, but find her seated at the desk, fully dressed in a cashmere cardigan and slacks. Despite her best efforts with cream blush, she still looks drawn.
 ‘What are you doing home so early?’ she asks.
 ‘Grayer had a run-in with some green paint so I brought him home to change before ice skating…’ The phone rings and she motions for me to stay.
 ‘Hello? … Oh, hi, Joyce … No, the letters haven’t come yet … I don’t know, slow zip code, I guess…’ Her voice still sounds hollow. ‘All the schools she applied to? Really? That’s fabulous… Well, which one are you going to choose? … Well, I don’t know as much about the girls’ schools … I’m sure you’ll make the right decision… Excellent. Bye.’
She turns back to me. ‘Her daughter got into every school she applied to. I don’t get it, she isn’t even cute … What were you saying?’
 ‘The paint – don’t worry, he wasn’t wearing the Collegiate sweatshirt when it happened. He made a really beautiful tree picture – ‘
 ‘Doesn’t he have a change of clothes at school?’
 ‘Yeah, I’m sorry – he used them last week when Giselle dumped glue on him and I forgot to replace it.’
 ‘What if he didn’t have time to change?’
 ‘I’m sorry, I’ll bring it tomorrow.’ I start to leave.
 ‘Oh, Nanny?’ I stick my head back in. ‘While I’ve got you. I need to have a talk with you about Grayer’s applications. Where is he?’
 ‘He’s watching Connie dust.’ Your chair-rail moldings. With a toothbrush.
 ‘Good, have a seat.’ She gestures to one of the upholstered wing chairs across from her desk. ‘Nanny, I have something terrible to tell you.’ She casts her eyes down to her hands twisting in her lap.
I can’t breathe. I brace myself for panties.
 ‘We got some very bad news this morning,’ she says slowly, struggling to get the words out. ‘Grayer got rejected from Collegiate.’
 ‘No, I quickly wipe the look of relief off my face. ‘I don’t believe it.’
 ‘I know – it’s just awful. And, to make matters even worse, he’s been wait-listed at St. David’s and St. Bernard’s. Wait-listed.’ She shakes her head. ‘So now our fingers are crossed for Trinity, but if, for some reason, that too doesn’t work out, then we’re just going to be left with his safeties and I’m not enthusiastic about the college placements at those schools.’
 ‘But he’s adorable. He’s smart and articulate. He’s funny. He shares well. I just don’t get it.’ I mean, lose the tie, what’s not to love about this kid?
 ‘I’ve been going over everything all morning, just trying to make sense of it.’ She looks out the window.’ Our application coach told us he was a shoo-in for Collegiate.”

There’s not much love in the X family, and Nanny feels used and abused. Reading The Nanny Diaries is a matter of perspective. You may know some of these characters. You may be some of these characters. Whether you enjoy the book or not may depend on your perspective. Think of it as documentary fiction and give it a try. And keep in mind, people who work in your house see and hear more than you think.

Steve Hopkins, May 1, 2002


ã 2002 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the June 2002 issue of Executive Times


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