Nanny Diaries: A Novel

Nanny Diaries: A Novel

by Emma McLaughlin, Nicola Kraus

Paperback(First Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312291631
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 03/18/2003
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 600,362
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin write together in New York City.


New York, New York

Place of Birth:

McLaughlin: Elmira, New York; Kraus: New York, New York


B.A., Gallatin School of Individualized Study, NYU (McLaughlin, 1996; Kraus, 1995)

Read an Excerpt


The Interview

Every season of my nanny career kicked off with a round of interviews so surreally similar that I'd often wonder if the mothers were slipped a secret manual at the Parents League to guide them through. This initial encounter became as repetitive as religious ritual, tempting me, in the moment before the front door swung open, either to kneel and genuflect or say, "Hit it!"

No other event epitomized the job as perfectly, and it always began and ended in an elevator nicer than most New Yorkers' apartments.


The walnut-paneled car slowly pulls me up, like a bucket in a well, toward potential solvency. As I near the appointed floor I take a deep breath; the door slides open onto a small vestibule which is the portal to, at most, two apartments. I press the doorbell.

Nanny Fact: she always waits for me to ring the doorbell, even though she was buzzed by maximum security downstairs to warn of my imminent arrival and is probably standing on the other side of the door. May, in fact, have been standing there since we spoke on the telephone three days ago.

The dark vestibule, wallpapered in some gloomy Colefax and Fowler floral, always contains a brass umbrella stand, a horse print, and a mirror, wherein I do one last swift check of my appearance. I seem to have grown stains on my skirt during the train ride from school, but otherwise I'm pulled together—twin set, floral skirt, and some Gucci-knockoff sandals I bought in the Village. She is always tiny. Her hair is always straight and thin; she always seems to be inhaling and never exhaling. She is always wearing expensive khaki pants, Chanel ballet flats, a French striped Tshirt, and a white cardigan. Possibly some discreet pearls. In seven years and umpteen interviews the I'm-momcasual-in-my-khakis-but-intimidating-in-my-$400-shoes outfit never changes. And it is simply impossible to imagine her doing anything so undignified as what was required to get her pregnant in the first place.

Her eyes go directly to the splot on my skirt. I blush. I haven't even opened my mouth and already I'm behind.

She ushers me into the front hall, an open space with a gleaming marble floor and mushroom-gray walls. In the middle is a round table with a vase of flowers that look as if they might die, but never dare wilt.

This is my first impression of the Apartment and it strikes me like a hotel suite—immaculate, but impersonal. Even the lone finger painting I will later find taped to the fridge looks as if it were ordered from a catalog. (Sub-Zeros with a custom-colored panel aren't magnetized.)

She offers to take my cardigan, stares disdainfully at the hair my cat seems to have rubbed on it for good luck, and offers me a drink.

I'm supposed to say, "Water would be lovely," but am often tempted to ask for a Scotch, just to see what she'd do. I am then invited into the living room, which varies from baronial splendor to Ethan Allen interchangeable, depending on how "old" the money is. She gestures me to the couch, where I promptly sink three feet into the cushions, transformed into a five-year-old dwarfed by mountains of chintz. She looms above me, ramrod straight in a very uncomfortable-looking chair, legs crossed, tight smile.

Now we begin the actual Interview. I awkwardly place my sweating glass of water carefully on a coaster that looks as if it could use a coaster. She is clearly reeling with pleasure at my sheer Caucasianness.

"So," she begins brightly, "how did you come to the Parents League?"

This is the only part of the Interview that resembles a professional exchange. We will dance around certain words, such as "nanny" and "child care," because they would be distasteful and we will never, ever, actually acknowledge that we are talking about my working for her. This is the Holy Covenant of the Mother/Nanny relationship: this is a pleasure—not a job. We are merely "getting to know each other," much as how I imagine a John and a call girl must make the deal, while trying not to kill the mood.

The closest we get to the possibility that I might actually be doing this for money is the topic of my baby-sitting experience, which I describe as a passionate hobby, much like raising Seeing Eye dogs for the blind. As the conversation progresses I become a child-development expert—convincing both of us of my desire to fulfill my very soul by raising a child and taking part in all stages of his/her development; a simple trip to the park or museum becoming a precious journey of the heart. I cite amusing anecdotes from past gigs, referring to the children by name—"I still marvel at the cognitive growth of Constance with each hour we spent together in the sandbox." I feel my eyes twinkle and imagine twirling my umbrella a la Mary Poppins. We both sit in silence for a moment picturing my studio apartment crowded with framed finger paintings and my doctorates from Stanford.

She stares at me expectantly, ready for me to bring it on home. "I love children! I love little hands and little shoes and peanut butter sandwiches and peanut butter in my hair and Elmo—I love Elmo and sand in my purse and the "Hokey Pokey"—can't get enough of it!—and soy milk and blankies and the endless barrage of questions no one knows the answers to, I mean why is the sky blue? And Disney! Disney is my second language!"

We can both hear "A Whole New World" slowly swelling in the background as I earnestly convey that it would be more than a privilege to take care of her child—it would be an adventure.

She is flushed, but still playing it close to the chest. Now she wants to know why, if I'm so fabulous, I would want to take care of her child. I mean, she gave birth to it and she doesn't want to do it, so why would I? Am I trying to pay off an abortion? Fund a leftist group? How did she get this lucky? She wants to know what I study, what I plan to do in the future, what I think of private schools in Manhattan, what my parents do. I answer with as much filigree and insouciance as I can muster, trying to slightly cock my head like Snow White listening to the animals. She, in turn, is aiming for more of a Diane-Sawyer-pose, looking for answers which will confirm that I am not there to steal her husband, jewelry, friends, or child. In that order.

Nanny Fact: in every one of my interviews, references are never checked. I am white. I speak French. My parents are college educated. I have no visible piercings and have been to Lincoln Center in the last two months. I'm hired.

Copyright 2002 by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Reading Group Guide


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 getting 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 employers Hermès 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 Xs 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 importantly, 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.

1. Why do you think the characters are never assigned real names?

2. Considering the harsh and fickle treatment Nan receives from Mrs. X, why do you think she stays with the family?

3. What kind of person do you think Grayer will grow up to be?

4. Why do you think that Nanny told Mrs. X about Mr. X's mistress before she left for good? Was it to protect her or was it for revenge?

5. If you were Nanny's family (parents, grandmother, boyfriend) would you support her decision to work for the X's? Consider her almost missing her graduation, her time constraints with finding a new apartment, as well as her emotional health and unfair compensation.

6. Would you have spoken your mind on the teddy bear tape recorder before leaving the X's household for good? Why do you think Nanny erased her initial outburst? How long would you be able to hold your tongue if found in a comparable work situation?

7. If you had the money that the X's had and could enrich your child's life with exotic foods, violin lessons, private schooling and French classes, would you and why? What do you think is appropriate for a child and what crosses the line?

8. How much responsibility should a nanny take in raising her employer's child?

9. Do you think Nanny will stay in the child-care profession after this experience?

10. Do you think this book is depressing or hopeful? How much is realistic vs. imaginary (a stretch) in your opinion?

11. If you employ domestic help, has this book changed your dialogue and/or view of that relationship? What rules of nannying would you require if you were hiring someone to take care of your child?

12. Why do you think this book has struck a cord with readers at this time?

Customer Reviews

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Nanny Diaries 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 500 reviews.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
2.5 stars The Nany Diaries is the first book in the Nanny series by American authors and ex-nannies, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. We start with a nanny called Nanny. Then we have parents Mr X and Mrs X, and their four-year-old son, Grayer. And a potential boyfriend who never gets beyond HH (=Harvard Hottie). So, ignore the silly names, and wade through the interview experiences, the ridiculous demands of these ultra-rich socialites and their first-world problems, and the brand name soup, and there’s actually a reasonable story. Which is that the nanny often has a much better relationship with the children than either of the parents do. And that all that money doesn’t ensure a stable marriage or a happy childhood. Nanny lacks backbone (but not self-pity) and makes quite a few unwise decisions. Nonetheless, her dedication to her four-year-old charge is genuine. The Xes are, no doubt, an amalgamation of the worst parents the authors have encountered: pretentious, shallow and selfish. This tale gives the reader some laughs, some head-shaking and some gasps at the behaviour of the rich. Is it entertaining enough that readers will want to read the sequel? Doubtful.
LoveLi More than 1 year ago
I am still reading this book and while I really enjoy the story it is hard to focus since there are so many typos it feels like you are reading a first draft as a proof reader. When they turned this into an eBook they must have outsourced it to someone/somewhere where English is not the language because tehre are words that make no sence whatsoever, "die" intead of "the" on uncountable instances, unexplaineable "99" here and there ( instead of C, 6 instead of e and so on. Really frustrating...... I feel bad for the authors sicne I am sure they paid someone to do the job. Would also expect B&N to have someone at least spot check eBooks since it is such a new product. Disappointing to have paid for this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a very easy book to read yet very enjoyable. I found myself not wanting to put it down.
MsNikki on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Not bad. Makes you wonder if social services has been monitoring the activities of the rich and wotless? Some of their transactions must be chargeable offences. I've worked as an assistant to a similarly self absorbed, morally bankrupt boss. Its amazing how you end of working in excess of your job spec and still made to feel like a scamp. Abused employees will relate.
Othemts on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This book is about a young woman named Nanny who works in child care while getting herself through college. Supposedly, it's a satire of the class differences between Nanny and her Evil Rich employer Mrs. X. This may have worked better if Nanny were say a Salvadoran or Fillipino woman with a doctorate forced into a low-wage, no-respect jobs upon immigration. Instead we have Nanny who also comes from wealth and privilege and it is amazing how oblivious she is (and by extension the authors) to how much she behaves like Mrs. X, the woman she hates. A scene in which Nanny berates and mocks a computer lab assistant when he's only doing his job is very telling. One can expect that ten years after this novel ends, Nanny will be married to her Harvard Hottie, living on Park Avenue, and reliving the shallow life of Mrs. X.
kryianna on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This book was suggested to me as a representative chick lit novel. As a novel, I was quite disappointed. The naming of the characters threw me off the entire way though the book. With "Nan" working for the "X" family, every time either was mentioned it brought me out of the book. I just need more creativity with names, I guess.
Cecilturtle on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I didn't know what to expect, but certainly nothing as entertaining, funny and well written as that. The characters are fleshed out, albeit somewhat charicatural at times, and the narrator learns a lesson or two. The strength of this book however is in its humanity. You really feel for the nannies, but first and foremost for the children.
cindyloumn on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Liked it. A quick read. They are making it in to a movie (which I saw, and the movie was a big disappointment!!). Loved the characters of the nanny, and what she had to put up with. Loved the harvard Hottie as the love interest. 10/20/06
susanbevans on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This book was so funny, I could not put it down!
edesvousges on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Readability Factor: EasyPredictability Factor: I suppose it wasn't very predictable because I was so infuriated by the ending. Sososososo freaking mad about the ending. The romance, however, was too easy and predictable. To be honest, I'm not sure what this novel was really about. A nanny? A child? A romance? I'm still not clear.Couldn't Put it Down Factor: Four stars (out of five).Recommend it? Nosiree. Don't waste your freaking time. If you want to know how it ends, shoot me an email. My guess is that the movie has a much better ending than the book. How else would they even get the funding to film it? It was really THAT bad. I'm still stinging.Overall Rating: Two stars. Cleverly-written, but an unprecidented waste of my time as someone getting closer to death every day.
luckymuffins on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Story of a young college student nannying for a rich and snobby family in Manhattan. Nanny is totally taken advantage of and treated horribly. Her struggle with her motherly feelings for Grayer, the child, and her hatred for his ignorant and selfish parents.
rbtwinky on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I found it quite difficult to put down this book about the disintegration of an oppulent 5th Avenue family. Nanny gets caught in the middle in an escalation of events that seem to always be just beyond her control. Very enjoyable!
melydia on LibraryThing 8 months ago
(abridged audiobook read by Julia Roberts): College senior Nanny takes a job as - you guessed it - a nanny for Grayer, the son of the extremely wealthy Mr. and Mrs. X. The Xes turn out to be every nanny's worst nightmare: rich, snobbish, and completely self-absorbed. It's actually strikingly similar to The Devil Wears Prada, except that I actually had sympathy for the narrator here. There's a child involved, so she really can't just quit. Nanny is actually quite graceful and professional in the face of such torment. The use of aliases like "X" and "Nanny" is an interesting device, making it sound more like nonfiction, except that everyone else in the book has a regular name. I don't know that I'd seek out other books by these authors, but this one was decent.On the audio version: Roberts is an okay narrator, but it took me a while to get into the groove of her slightly too-fast monotone.
amodini on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The "Nanny diaries" is about a nanny (well, duh !), who is called Nanny throughout the book, her employer Mrs.X and her son Grayer. Mrs. X is the original size 2 ice maiden, and thaws only at the extremities, and only for her son and her philandering husband. Nanny wishes to quit faced with such an cold employer (pun intended), but stays on because of the 4 year old Grayer. Initially hostile, Grayer is a genuinely sweet kid. Nanny is a 21 year old at NYU, sharing a tiny apartment with a room-mate and the room-mate's hairy boyfriend (who often sleeps over).The book is funny to the point where I'm laughing out loud at places. But it is also emotional and moving; certainly got my heartstrings twanging. A good read, although it does end rather mildly.
GabbyReElle on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Witty and entertaining, though frustratingly unjust. It was quite a page-turner and an allover good novel. The characters were static but very engaging. The ending though was disappointing and somewhat abrupt. There was very little closure, which I personally can't stand in a book.
Kace on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I read Dedication first, then attempted Citizen Girl (gave up on cause of personal quirks), and it was only then, that I read the Nanny diaries. Other than naming the main character, who is a nanny, Nanny, I enjoyed the book. Its definitely worth a read.
librisissimo on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Substance: "The authors have worked, at one time or another, for over thirty New York City families, and this story was inspired by what they have learned and experienced." I believe it. Such a sad tale of ostensible grown-ups using children as "accessories" to their lives. The 18-year-old nanny (a bit young to be graduating from NYU that year?) is characteristic of all the care-givers and teachers who seem to be more concerned about children than their parents are. Nanny's own family is a hoot, especially Grandma (Auntie Mame lives!), and her friends are a welcome if somewhat idiosyncratic relief from the High Income and Status world of her employers.Style: First-person narrative, very appropriate. Straight-forward and clear writing. Emotionally engaging.
staria on LibraryThing 8 months ago
"The Nanny Diaries" is the fictional story of Nan, a grad student at NYU working as a nanny. Wickedly funny, the novel has pure laugh out loud moments as well as heart-breaking ones as Nan gets deeper in the Manhattan world of Mr. and Mrs. X while taking care of Grayer, a lovable but difficult child. I absolutely loved the witty and simple style, and the fact that it never bores. From the moment I read the first pages I was hooked on it and couldn't put it down until the end, only to leave me wishing for more.
angelhair45 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Just finished The Nanny Diaries. Good, quick read. Not my favorite, but I'd recommend it, especially to those who like chick lit or those who have been a nanny. It is based on real life experiences the authors had as nannies living in New York City.The book is a fictionalized account of one young woman, a senior in college, and her year of being a nanny for a family living the high life on Park Avenue. The book is funny, but is also heart wrenching at times. I was a nanny when I was younger, but I am lucky to say I never experienced things like the book describes. It's so sad to think there are parents out there who really don't spend time with their kids they just pass them from one care giver to the next.Nanny (yes her name is Nanny, confused me at first too) works for a family who live in some other world it seems. They demand perfection from Nanny and yet are completely irresponsible themselves. They have no respect for her or her schedule and treat her like she should kiss the ground they walk on. I spite of all their faults their son is adorable, and loveable which is why Nanny doesn't quit but tries to stick it out. It just breaks your heart that his parents don't seem to care about HIM ( just his image) and you can't help but wonder how these kids will turn out. There are lots of funny antecdotes, and some romance, but at the end you will want to go give any of the kids in you life a big hug and spend some time with them.Final Verdict : 3.75 out of 5 stars
stephmo on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I realize that this book is essentially residing in the Doritos section of the book store while everyone mostly wishes to pretend that they only read Globe Artichokes, Organic Free-Range Chickens or Nine-Grain Toasted Wheat Berry Muffins. But you know what? There are days where I really do want Doritos. And I don't mean some sub-standard generic Nacho-Cheese-Flavored Corn Chip - if I'm going to eat junk food, I want a quality junk food (I don't want pretend junk food either - so keep your Guava Choco-Almond Crips to yourself). And that's what you'll get with the Nanny Diaries. A quality, name-brand, worth-the-calories, junk food read.In terms of your chick lit, summer beach read, something to pass the time reads, The Nanny Diaries is a cut above most others. While the staples are all present - young ingenue about to make her way in big city, old guard establishment that will be examined though wide-eyed idealism and a best-friend with rough edges - this story seems to do a much better job of taking us through the familiar dance without it seeming so forced.Nan is a surprisingly well-formed character for the genre. By this, I mean that she has reason for moving through the plot. Her actions also have consequence and her character suffers from mistakes of her own creation in addition to the expected meanness of others. Nan's story of accepting a job and staying on as Grayer's nanny to a self-involved Manhattan couple works only because she is more than a single-note character. Even Grayer, her charge, gets his turn at character growth. The lessons in the Nanny Diaries are not particularly deep (don't be a self-involved jerk pretty much sums it up), but that's okay. If you want life-changing, go to the Pomegranate Syrup Infused Roasted Rack of Lamb section of the literature isle.
The_Book_Queen on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I bought the book after watching the movie, which I loved. This is sometimes a mistake. However, The Nanny Diaries hits 'outstanding' either way-- in the book or movie. I suggest you do both, does not really matter the order. But since this review is on the book itself, lets go with the book first, okay? ;) It took me a while to pick it out of my TBR pile, simply because I wanted to read romances, not chick lit for the longest time. But when I grabbed it Wednesday morning, I had it almost finished by the time I turned in that same night (Only missed finishing it by about 40 pages, but I was so tired from work that day that I finally just left it at that and finished it early this morning.) But from page one, I was hooked, and quickly reeled in, only being let go at the very end. Knowing the way money and power can get to a person *thought yes, I know, not all people* it's not surprising that Mrs. X and her friends act the way they do. And it was not hard to imagine the same things that happened in the book to happen in some rich family's town house in New York. Emma and Nicola provide an amazing story that weaves both previous experiences and a touch of fiction together flawlessly, leaving you believe you are still reading a 'fiction' book and not an almost autobiography. The story combines chick lit, a touch of romance, a heavy does of love (As in the love that Grayer and Nanny have for each other.) and more than sprinkle of reality-- the perfect recipe for a perfectly witty book. The must read book for any woman to read, just right for an easy and fun beach read!5/5 stars. The Nanny Diaries is the best 'chick lit' type book that I have ever read, sure to become a great 'classic' for women to read at the beach, at home, with friends, or even for a book club. (Well, you know what I mean!) Don't miss this book-- and the movie is very good too.***If slightly different during some parts from the book***
KarlNarveson on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Sprightly narrative (first person, present tense) contains enough matter for a magazine piece but should really not have been packaged as a novel. Incident succeeds incident, furnishing abundant scope for indignation throughout the academic year during which this nanny assignment continues, but nobody learns or grows: neither the insufferable employers, nor the narrator (whose family and friends have warned her by Christmas not to be such a doormat), nor even the little boy.
LaurenGommert on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This won't hold everyones attention but being a nanny I found the book not only hilarious, but strikingly accurate as well! Anyone who nannies, or uses a nanny (particularly if you use a nanny!!), should read this book. I found myself laughing at loud as the main character found herself in ridiculous predicaments caused by her rich and ridiculous employer. Still, despite the humor, the book truly grasps the connection made between a nanny and child- deep and delicate bond that can't be understood by anyone else!
jasminemarie on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This was my 2nd go-around with this book. (I've been in the mood to reread books lately.) It's been YEARS since I've read this book and I think my first go-around with it, I must have finished it in a day or two. Rereading it again just reminded me how GOOD it was. The writing is deliciously sarcastic without being too distracting. I remember when I read it the first time, I was actually considering being a part-time nanny. I was still in college and needed an income. I loved working with kids and thought being a nanny would be fun. Luckily (or unluckily?) I ended up being a teacher. Hmm? I love how this book gives us an inside look into the behind-the-scenes life of what the social life is like on Park Avenue. Even though I know it's exaggerated and fictionalized, I appreciate its raw & unforgiving honesty. Definitely a must-read!
mcalister on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The Nanny Diaries is a novel about the very, very rich and their very, very overworked hired help in New York City. The nanny of the diary, Nan (how appropriate), tries to balance her life between university classes in the Village and a "part-time" job on Park Ave. as surrogate mother to a four-year old boy. Definitely a tragicomic satire of life at the top -- we can laugh at the utterly absurd lengths people will go to get their children into Ivy League kindergartens, but the point the authors want to drive home is that despite living a fairy tale life of privilege and prestige, it is the children who ultimately lose out.