Noticing that this book has been in the top bestsellers for a long time and knowing more or less what it was about, I decided to give it a try, out of curiosity.

This novel has been written by two former nannies, who drew their inspiration from their various experiences. Though the book claims to be a work of fiction and its authors take the precaution to mention that "none of those families (for whom they worked) is portrayed in this book", one turns the last page wondering how much of it really happened (even if not all within the same family) and how much is indeed fictitious.

The story is the following: Nanny writes her thesis in educational psychology and has to pay the rent of the tiny Manhattan apartment she shares, officially with a stewardess who is often on a plane and also, unofficially, with her flatmate’s boyfriend. Like the previous years, she applies for a part-time job as a nanny…

From the preliminary interview to the final parting from the family, everything is dissected with wit and cynicism. We see how Nanny, now working for the Xs,  has learned through her various experiences with wealthy families to pretend she actually looks after kids for pleasure, that it vulgar to talk about money matters or that the child shouldn’t play outside of his room or eat outside of the kitchen (God forbids!). The rest of the apartment is off-limits, an impersonal arrangement destined to be showed off to guests…

Of course, Grayer, the child, is tolerated by his mother so far as he doesn’t make the slightest noise or go anywhere near her and her new three-thousand bucks party dress. If the Xs almost never display any sign of affection, they don’t hesitate however to spend money on the little one, if it can earn him acceptance in one of the best schools in Manhattan (just so they’d be able to say: "my four-year-old has been admitted to…"). Thus the kid has an agenda busier than his father’s: French, piano, "mommy and me" meetings (where the nanny attends instead of the mommy by the way!), ice skating, etc. Even the diet of the kid is monitored (soy cookies, tofu hotdogs, chopped fruits…)

The treatment of the kid is scandalous but royal however compared to the one reserved to the nanny: Nanny isn’t allowed a life beside her role as a nanny (her part-time soon becomes more-than-full time!), she has to show up disguised as a Teletubby at a Halloween party and she should of course be attainable at all times on the cell phone provided by Mrs. X, even at 8 a.m. on January the first…

Of course, reading The Nanny Diaries, one wonders how somebody can be such a doormat and have such a low self-esteem as to accept to keep on working for a family unable to show the least respect. Several explanations are given in the book for this behavior: for Nanny, the reason is simply that she has become attached to Grayer and doesn’t want to leave him in the middle of a family crisis…

Also, the reader who wonders why the Xs bothered to have a child at all if they didn’t intend to take care of him will find an answer to the question in the course of the book. From what I have read, many people have been disappointed by the ending. This comes from the fact, I think, that this book oscillates between comedy and drama, and has difficulty keeping a consistent tone. Readers felt that the characters needed closure, but the authors apparently favored a realistic ending. In real life, the nanny is entrusted with a kid for a definite period of time and rarely gets to know if he will turn out all right…

The Nanny Diaries is not one of these books that makes you feel more clever or knowledgeable for reading it, it is certainly voyeuristic and not funny at all from the perspective of the victims, if we assume it is based on true anecdotes. It is nevertheless a very entertaining book, a satire of the rich and snobbish of Park Avenue, recommended to everybody who has the least bit of curiosity about other people’s lives…

Rating: 3,5/5