One young woman to take care of four-year-old boy. Must be cheerful, enthusiastic, and selfless--bordering on masochistic. Must relish sixteen-hour shifts with a deliberately nap-deprived preschooler. Must love geting thrown up on, literally and figuratively, by everyone in his family. Must enjoy the delicious anticipation of ridiculously 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 X's 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 important, 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 is an absolutely addictive peek into the utterly weird world of child rearing in the upper reaches of Manhattan's social strata. Cowritten by two former nannies, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, the novel follows the adventures of the aptly named Nan as she negotiates the Byzantine byways of working for Mrs. X, a Park Avenue mommy. Nan's 4-year-old charge, the hilariously named Grayer (his pals include Josephina, Christabelle, Brandford, and Darwin) is a genuinely good sort. He can't help it if his mom has scheduled him for every activity known to the Upper East Side, including ice skating, French lessons, and a Mommy and Me group largely attended by nannies. What makes the book so impossible to put down is the suspense of finding out what the unbelievably inconsiderate Mrs. X will demand of Nan next. One pictures the two authors having the last hearty laugh on their former employers. --Claire Dederer