Penguin, £6.99, ISBN 0-141-00892-X
Contemporary Fiction, 2002
What a depressing book. The Nanny Diaries is an ode to martyrdom, misanthropy, and depression masquerading as a happy charming mainstream chick-lit story. The humor is cruel and always at someone’s expense, and to top off the insult, the authors give their main characters names like “Mrs X” and “Nanny” while claiming that this book is 100% fictitious. Chicken doodoo has nothing on these two women, they just want a movie contract, no doubt.
Yes, I’m bitter. I’m angry too, because I feel utterly manipulated. And worse, this book isn’t even well-written. The narration is choppy and disjointed, and characterization is nonexistent.
“Nanny”, a twenty-one year old cheerful woman who is a pro at taking care of kids, becomes the new nanny for four-year old Grayer, the son of Mr and Mrs X. Grayer isn’t an easy kid to take care of, but Nanny soon finds herself becoming the Xes’ punching bag. Mr X is having an affair with his Managing Director, while Mrs X reveals herself as a neurotic, insecure control freak. Nanny, in the meantime, reveals herself to be a sadistic martyr, taking all sorts of crap while making snide remarks behind her employers’ backs. This is passive-aggressive nastiness at its finest.
The whole mess piles up like a spectacular bonfire of a ten-car pile-up. In the end, I only feel sorry for Grayer, who underneath his bratty exterior (hey, he is four, after all) is a child who is already showing signs of growing up into a screw-up.
Oh, and a warning? Nanny doesn’t walk away entirely with her head held high. The X’es don’t go to marriage counselling and become the new Brady parents. Maybe this is realistic, maybe there are parents like the wealthy, self-absorbed X’es who unknowingly drive their kids to be the new Drew Barrymores of the future. Hell, maybe Grayer will grow up to look like Christian Bale who will then sic his parents with a chainsaw while they sleep. I wonder if the authors will write the sequel, The Nanny Diaries: I Was Norman Bates’ Nanny and Secret Lover, aka How I Bore the Child of Satan.