One of the things that bothered me about the popular
(and, in many ways, quite good) book The Nanny
Diaries is what unsympathetic cartoons the
children's parents were. I'm sure there are many
people like this in the world, but surely not all
nannies work for such creeps. Many, I'm sure,
would flee at the sight of them, rather than being
almost totally at the mercy of their cruelly wielded
power, like that book's heroine.
At first glance, the family in Melissa Nathan's
charming The Nanny seems like a similar collection
of gargoyles, but it's to the book's credit that all
the characters turn out to be far more complex and
sympathetic as the plot unfolds.
The story revolves around Jo Green, a bright but
unfulfilled twenty-three-year-old nanny living in provincial
England. She takes a job with an eccentric family in
London. How eccentric? Mom and Dad always seem moments
away from coming to blows; they have three kids, plus
two more from the father's first marriage. The fact
that one of those two boys is Jo's age, handsome and
charming creates even more problems, especially
considering Jo's tentative relationship with her
boyfriend back home.
It's the usual chick-lit stuff, but Nathan
cleverly gives all the characters enough shading and
quirks to keep things interesting. Jo is a vastly
likable heroine as she copes with being a good nanny
and trying to make the right choices in her own life.
Perhaps the book's best character is Pippa, a
perceptive, good-hearted fellow nanny who is a
combination buddy, therapist and cheerleader for Jo.
Even Dick and Vanessa, the parents of Jo's charges,
who at first appear to be jerks, turn out to be
admirable people and caring, sympathetic employers.
The Nanny is superficial froth, to be sure. But it's
funny, sweet and full of surprises.