Sigh. You know what they say about diving into anything with preconceived ideas…something along the lines of: you’re usually disappointed. But I had to learn that lesson for myself, didn’t I? And the Nanny Diaries sure did teach it to me. I went in with the preconceived notion that I was going to get quite a kick out of it… and, in my defence, it has been raved about, gushed about and translated onto the screen; what was I supposed to deduce from such a response? However, to my dismay, I was left pondering one particular question: where the hell did all of this novel’s accolades come from? Did its reviewers even read the book? I sound unjustly harsh, I know. I sound a little over-critical, I know. However, in all seriousness, nearly every literary facet of this book left me disappointed.
The Nanny Diaries recounts the journey of New York University student, Nanny, as her childcare job with the X family steadily transitions from two-day-a-week child-minding to full-time surrogate mothering. Nanny battles the elements of the Upper West Side elitist lifestyle, frantically hunting for lavender water (whatever the hell that is), steaming kale for a four year old who just wants a hot dog and searching desperately for the panties of Mr. X’s mistress before they fall into the hands of his wife. This is a book about a nanny called Nanny who hates her job with ever fibre of her being but can’t quit for her love of Grayer X, the little kid who has her by the heart strings while his mother threatens to cut them.
If you allow me to be blunt, here is my opinion of the plot: boring, repetitive and anticlimactic. Yes, there were brief moments that brought a smile to my face or had me raging at Mrs. X but as an entire novel, The Nanny Diaries was quite a dull, and therefore tiring, read. While I do value a novel that provokes me into sharing its characters’ emotions, whether they be anger, grief, hope or euphoria, I do not enjoy spending chapter after chapter in a state of incessant frustration. As a result of a very cyclical storyline, whose action sequence was void of some much needed contrast, The Nanny Diaries lacked pause for relief and quickly began to feel like one tiresome rant about the Xs.
The minor sub-plots of the story, those involving Nanny’s romance, family and friends, were neglected by the authors and remained unconcluded by the novel’s completion. I found myself frequently yearning for a chapter devoted to Nanny’s love life or her eclectic grandmother, just for a little break from the stream of employment misery. These things did flit across the pages every now and again but not often enough to satisfactorily compensate for the childcare tedium. These facets of the storyline seemed to me to simply be strings woven into the story but left untied. As a reader, I felt no closure regarding Nanny’s relationship, nor did I feel particularly satiated by the novel’s actual ending. Sorry, The Nanny Diaries, but your plot was weak.
I will not unfairly claim that the writing was elementary, incomprehensible or bland; I quite liked the colourful vocabulary and the frequent wit, two elements of style that brought life and texture to the novel as well as to the main character, Nanny, from whose first person perspective the story was told. Unfortunately however, that’s where my positive feedback comes to a grinding halt. It took me a full four chapters to become acquainted enough with the authors’ style to easily flow with the writing. On too many occasions, I found there to be sentences ill-formed, nonsensical or missing altogether, making it difficult to easily (and therefore enjoyably) understand Nanny’s intentions. While this sporadic and candid style of first person prose was obviously used by the authors as a method of characterising Nanny, I often felt that its effect was lost as a result of poor structure and expression. Overall, the writing was not terrible and could definitely be classed as funny and intelligent. However, I found that certain ill-formed elements of the book’s style detracted from much of the characterisation and expression.
The Nanny Diaries, by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, was a book that I was quite excited to read and picked up with a cheery enthusiasm. Expecting humour, wit and warmth, I was disappointed to find myself ploughing exhaustedly through endless chapters of frustration. While the mark of a good book is the sensation of being addicted to it, I found The Nanny Diaries to almost be a chore and was quite relieved when I finally reached its closing paragraph. Although certain elements of its style and characterisation were colourful and textured, the novel as a whole is certainly not one that I would read again, nor one that I would recommend.
I’m curious however, in spite of what may seem to you to be a determinedly negative response to this book, whether you found it be at all enjoyable and what you liked and disliked about it. Do you feel I’ve been unjust in my criticisms? Would you recommend this book? Share your thoughts!