The authors have both worked for well-heeled New Yorkers and in
this work they fictionalise their accounts to protect the
innocent and the guilty living along Park Avenue.
There is the very
hip nanny, aptly called Nan, whose employer is the rather
mysterious Mrs X, and her charge is what eventually turns out to
be the lovable Grayer. Now the child’s only crime seems to be
that he happens to be Mrs X’s son, a mother who’s obsession
to get the best out her son means signing him for every possible
extra-curricular and enrichment activity, ensuring that contact
with her son is kept at the bare minimum. Mrs X’s demands from
her nanny would be something like this:
* Must love being
thrown up on, literally and figuratively, by just about everyone
in the family.
* Must be able to
miss school and join the family on last-minute vacations.
* On such
vacations must be able to take care of all of Grayer’s pals.
* Must be able to
work all the extra hours and not expect to be paid from them.
Now, who would
pine for such a job, you’d rightly wonder. But Nan does. She
is struggling to graduate from university, has to pay the rent
for the apartment that she shares with a stewardess, and has to
manage to get food on the table. Desperate to make ends meet so
that she can land a ‘proper job’ she grabs the opportunity
to be of service to Mrs X. But she soon finds out that she’s
got more than she bargained for.
To show that she
has put in a lot of thought towards raising four-year-old
Grayer, Mrs X makes Nan go through ‘the list’ which goes
something like this:
must be made facing East.
has to be drunk out of a sip glass over sink or bathtub
(preferably until child is 18).
"All food is
to be served on a plastic place mat with paper towel beneath
bowl, bib on at all times.
drops to a pitch only whales can hear) no food outside the
Well, you get the
idea`85These are the lives of the filthy rich, where status is
measured by who throws the best (read most expensive) kid’s
Halloween party, where kids are forced to wear designer and
well-ironed clothes to parties and where whether a kid has the
makings of genius or whether he is headed to Harvard or Oxford
is decided pretty much by which preparatory school he or she can
It’s a tough
world, one might say, because the process of trying to make it
to one of the finest schools could entail language, dance and
music lessons all in one go for a four-year old. And whatever
little time the kid is left with is to be used for other
mind-expanding activities such as regular visits to the museum.
Well, that’s the
sort of dangerous territory Nan steps into when she agrees to
take charge of Grayer. As if that were not bad enough, when
Grayer starts showing signs of not making it to the dream school
it all becomes Nan’s fault and from then on follow counselling
sessions by none less than a professional counsellor.
In addition to
playing nanny, Nan also finds herself trapped into having to
organise parties for Mrs X. And when the Xs’ marriage moves
close to disintegration, Nan realises how attached she has
become to their unloved son and how being a nanny to him has
become more than just another job.
When the book
reaches this stage, poignant satire replaces caustic wit and the
glamour of Manhattan’s upper crust is thoroughly punctured.
And then you get the subtle message that good and responsible
parenting is something that money just can’t buy.
A word about the
authors: Nicola and Emma live in New York City and the runaway
success of The Nanny Diaries has ensured that they no
longer continue to work as nannies. With Miramax having bought
the film rights of the book, there just might be endless
sunrises and sunsets by the beach for these two promising