Summary and book reviews of The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin

The Nanny Diaries

A Novel

By Nicola Kraus, Emma McLaughlin

The Nanny Diaries
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    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Feb 2002,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2003,
    352 pages.

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About this Book

Book Summary

One young woman to take care of four-year-old boy.
Must be cheerful, enthusiastic and self-less - bordering on masochistic.
Must relish 16 hour shifts with a deliberately nap deprived preschooler.
Must love getting thrown up on, literately and figuratively, by everyone in his family.
Must enjoy the delicious anticipation of ridiculously low, erratic pay.
Mostly, must love being treated like fungus found growing out of employer's Hermes bag.
Those who take it personally need not apply.


Who wouldn't want this job?


Struggling to graduate from NYU and afford her microscopic studio apartment, Nanny takes a position caring for the only son of the wealthy X family. She rapidly learns the insane amount of juggling involved to ensure that a Park Avenue wife who doesn't work, cook, clean, or raise her own child has a smooth day.

When the Xs marriage begins to disintegrate, Nanny ends up involved way beyond the bounds of human decency or good taste. Her tenure with the X family becomes a nearly impossible mission to maintain the mental health of their four-year-old, her own integrity and, most importantly, her sense of humor. Over nine tense months Mrs. X and Nanny perform the age-old dance of decorum and power as they test the limits of modern-day servitude.

The Nanny Diaries deftly skewers the manner in which America's over-privileged raise les petites over-privileged--as if grooming them for a Best in Show competition. Written by two former nannies, this alternately comic and poignant satire punctures the glamour of Manhattan's upper class.

Prologue
The Interview

Every season of my nanny career kicked off with a round of interviews so surreally similar that I'd often wonder if the mothers were slipped a secret manual at the Parents League to guide them through. This initial encounter became as repetitive as religious ritual, tempting me, in the moment before the front door swung open, either to kneel and genuflect or say, "Hit it!"

No other event epitomized the job as perfectly, and it always began and ended in an elevator nicer than most New Yorkers' apartments.

***

The walnut-paneled car slowly pulls me up, like a bucket in a well, toward potential solvency. As I near the appointed floor I take a deep breath; the door slides open onto a small vestibule which is the portal to, at most, two apartments. I press the doorbell.

Nanny Fact: she always waits for me to ring the doorbell, even though she was buzzed by maximum security downstairs to warn of my imminent arrival and is probably standing on the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Why do you think the characters are never assigned real names?

  2. Considering the harsh and fickle treatment Nan receives from Mrs. X, why do you think she stays with the family?

  3. What kind of person do you think Grayer will grow up to be?

  4. Why do you think that Nanny told Mrs. X about Mr. X's mistress before she left for good? Was it to protect her or was it for revenge?

  5. If you were Nanny's family (parents, grandmother, boyfriend) would you support her decision to work for the X's? Consider her almost missing her graduation, her time constraints with finding a new apartment, as well as her emotional health and unfair compensation.

  6. Would you have spoken your mind on the teddy bear tape recorder before ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Harper's Bazaar

...a humorous, detail-packed new novel...

New York Magazine

...the wicked fascination of this novel lies in all the wacky tidbits about life in the social stratosphere....very funny...

W Magazine

...sharply observed and stylishly written

Glamour Magazine

...[a] hilarious tell-all novel

Vogue

...the details, devastating as they are, ring true, making this [book]...impossible to put down.

Booklist - Beth Warrell

Some minor characters need fleshing out and a subplot involving Nanny's romance with an Ivy League student is left dangling, but finally this is a fast-paced, witty, and thoroughly entertaining tale.

Kirkus Reviews

First-novelists and former nannies McLaughlin and Kraus get the details right

Library Journal

This is an inside story. The authors have both worked as nannies for well-to-do New Yorkers, and here they fictionalize their experiences to protect the innocent--and the guilty!

Publishers Weekly

Required reading for parents and the women who they hire to do their parenting...thoroughly appealing...

Reader Reviews
Beth K.

above average light read
A satire of NY society that keeps you entertained. The parenting methods, lifestyle choices and general ambiance are all very typical. Mrs. X is L. Birnbach but the one who is best portrayed is Mr.X a.k.a. Steven Haft in real life (Birnbach's ...   Read More

Beth K.

above average light read
A satire of NY society that keeps you entertained. The parenting methods, lifestyle choices and general ambiance are all very typical. Mrs. X is L. Birnbach but the one who is best portrayed is Mr.X a.k.a. Steven Haft in real life (Birnbach's ...   Read More

E.M.

Okay...
This book was really good. It could do without the slightly inappropriate parts, though. The language, alcohol and drug references were also disappointing. I would give it a 3 out of 5.

trvlquuen1

Not as Entertaining
Based on the hype, I was prepared for an easy, entertaining, funny book. Yes, it was an easy read, and at times, the author did have a good sense of humor, however, I don't find child neglect in the least bit funny, nor the treatment of what the rich...   Read More

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