Thursday, December 1, 2011

What the Nanny Saw by Fiona Neill

5 Star

What would you give to see behind the doors of the perfect family?
The Skinner family's nanny, Ali Sparrow, has the ideal view when their luxurious lifestyle shatters overnight. For the past decade Nick and Bryony Skinner have ridden high on the economic boom, sparing no expense - especially when it comes to spoiling their four children.

But the Skinners' luck is running out and, as their children are only too aware, money doesn't always buy happiness. And when it emerges that city banker Nick has been keeping a secret that places him and Bryony at the centre of a very public scandal, he vanishes, leaving Ali holding the family together.

So how will she react when she's approached by the press for the inside scoop? Will she remain loyal to the family who let her into their home? Or will she tell all about the employers who never saw her as more than a part of their expensive furniture?
Kathryn - 5 Star

My first impression of Neill’s novel was that it was not what I was expecting- I think I was expecting something like The Nanny Diaries (McLaughlin & Kraus) but What the Nanny Saw turned out to be quite different in both the voice and the focus of the story.
The story revolves around a young family- the parents are at the height of their careers in London and making absurd amounts of money- they hire Ali, impoverished student, as their nanny because she’s studying English literature, she’s  intelligent and organised enough to cope with their chaotic schedules.  They are typically over-parenting via the nanny (demanding details of each child’s progress daily in writing while rarely actually eating dinner with their children themselves) and yet I found myself really liking both parents and getting a sense that there was a relationship building between them and their kids, despite the physical distance.   Towards the end though, as more and more things start to be exposed, you can see how the image projected at the start is perhaps just that, a picture of what they wanted life to be like.
The bulk of the storyline is actually based around the husband being accused of insider trading and I found the financial angle original especially as Neill still maintained Ali’s perspective as the nanny to this family throughout.  Neill has stuffed this novel full of quirky characters- so many I couldn’t even pick a favourite. (I was also happy with the romantic sub-plot towards the end, I’m sure I was supposed to disapprove but Neill managed to remind me how real things can sometimes be at that age.)
Neill’s writing and plot progression brought me into the family so deeply that I was really reluctant to let them go when the novel ended and wanted more from Chapter Twenty-Five but I suppose a nanny is no longer part of the family at the end of her job and therefore is no longer privy to the details either.

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  1. I was disappointed in it, in part because the basic premise that they would employ an inexperienced student, who did't know London, as a nanny, didn't convince me. Some of the tensions between the family were interestingly done, though. The East European nanny and her fate were the most touching bits, plus the bonding with the younger kids. It just wasn't quite what I thought somehow.

  2. Excellent reading. I loved it. Well done Fiona. Really looking forward to reading your other novels.

    1. I have to agree with everything in this post. Thanks for the useful information.
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