Filthy-rich Bryony and Nick Skinner wanted a modern-day Mary Poppins, but what they needed was a superwoman who could “tread on the map of family life without leaving a big imprint.” Twenty-one-year-old Ali Sparrow was perfect: eager to raise money to finish school, get away from a going-nowhere affair, and escape her own troubled family. London columnist and bestselling author Neill (The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy) concocts a darkly fascinating portrait of the stupid-rich, and the morally superior immigrant maids they press into service. In Ali’s case, it soon becomes clear that her real job isn’t just plugging domestic gaps in the lives of a banker and his wife, but rather “actually running the show,“ a tricky task involving needy five-year-old twins Hector and Alfie; insecure, anorexic 14-year-old Izzy; and moody, cynical 17-year-old Jake. But her hardest job by far will be keeping mum about the financial scandal that threatens to bring down the Skinners. And keeping her passionate affair with Jake, their son, in the dark will prove an even greater challenge. In this fast-paced, dishy morality tale, Neill also delivers a thoughtful dissection of how greed and hubris helped bring the banking industry to its knees in 2008. Agent: United Agents. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"[Fiona Neill] mixes delicious high-roller tidbits with well-rendered characters who illustrate why—and how—the rich are different."—People
"After an uberwealthy London family gets embroiled in a financial scandal following the 2008 crash, the trusted babysitter is the one holding all the secrets. Neill’s engrossing and funny novel lives up to the titillating title."—Entertainment Weekly
“Readers expecting a salacious, lighthearted romp, as anything with the word 'nanny' in the title might suggest, will find that Neill has something more substantive and biting in mind.”—Booklist
"Neill’s engrossing tale makes for an addictive read, and one can only keep turning the pages to get to the inescapable conclusion."—Library Journal
"Neill concocts a darkly fascinating portrait of the stupid-rich, and the morally superior immigrant maids they press into service. . . . In this fast-paced, dishy morality tale, Neill also delivers a thoughtful dissection of how greed and hubris helped bring the banking industry to its knees in 2008."—Publishers Weekly
Library Journal - Audio
When Ali considers the debt she's accruing and the ill-advised affair with her married tutor, she decides to discontinue her studies at university. She takes a job as nanny for wealthy, privileged Nick and Bryony Skinner. She must become accustomed to being treated with courtesy and generosity one minute and then being overlooked or forgotten the next. As the 2008–09 financial crisis hits worldwide, Ali witnesses a disintegrating marriage, overeager paparazzi, and the fear and heartbreak of the couple's seven-year-old twins. Funny and absorbing, Neill's (Slummy Mummy) latest title offers an in-depth look at the moral latitude granted to the upper crust, wryly noted along the way by someone from the opposite end of the social spectrum. Despite the Skinners' neuroses and selfishness, a family crisis is still a family crisis, which makes for an absorbing read. Narrator Alison Larkin nails the absurdity of urban London haute. VERDICT Recommended to fans of Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus's The Nanny Diaries or anyone who enjoys family dramas from an outsider's perspective. ["This biting drama is filled with tension and remarkably flawed characters. Neill's engrossing tale makes for an addictive read, and one can only keep turning the pages to get to the inescapable conclusion," read the review of the Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA) hc, LJ 7/12.—Ed.]—Terry Ann Lawler, Phoenix P.L.
In Neill's (The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy) second novel, Nick and Bryony Skinner built their fortunes on the economic boom that peaked in 2006. But spending frivolously, they see their world come crashing down with the financial collapse that ensues in 2008. Nanny Ali Sparrow, who immerses herself within this family to hide from her own, becomes privy to sensitive information and finds that there are secrets that, if ever told, would tear the family apart and even jeopardize her employment, where she has grown to love the four Skinner children. Ali also learns what some people will do in the name of greed and how unethical and immoral decisions seem to rule when better actions should prevail. VERDICT This biting drama is filled with tension and remarkably flawed characters. Neill's engrossing tale makes for an addictive read, and one can only keep turning the pages to get to the inescapable conclusion.—Anne M. Miskewitch, Chicago P.L.
A university student gets an insider's look at the world banking crisis when she becomes nanny to a London financier, from the British author of Slummy Mummy (2007). In 2006, Ali Sparrow has mounting tuition debt and a rocky affair with a professor she would like to escape. To solve both problems, she takes a year off from university to nanny for the Skinner family. In the world of London nannies, populated by buxom Eastern European refugees, Ali is quite a find: Though without experience, she is legal and in possession of a driver's license. For her part, Ali has never seen such wealth. Father Nick is in charge of Lehman's London branch and Bryony runs a financial PR firm. Their Holland Park mansion is filled with art (Ali stashes her Francis Bacon poster in the closet when she notices the real thing is above the fireplace), a ridiculous pug, a Philippina housekeeper and four children. Jake is 17 and soon off to Oxford; Izzy is 14 and flirting with boys and anorexia; and then there are the twins, Hector and Alfie, Ali's primary charges. Ali's story--a bright girl from a fishing village making good, with a junkie for an older sister and an unspectacular love life--really plays second fiddle to the drama at hand: the rise and fall of the glamorous Skinner family. Nick is mysterious and perhaps guilty of insider trading, Bryony is intense and controlling, Bryony's father, Foy, is a fabulous drunken lothario, and the twins are a bit eerie, what with their secret language, empathic responses and refusal to be separated. It is all too much and not enough at once--a life lived extravagantly and shallowly, a series of parties, meetings and personal tragedies to schedule. Not much happens in Neill's novel, but her portrayal of the family is happily addictive and their greed-driven downfall a little bit delicious.