Never be Cross or Cruel, Never Give us Castor Oil or Gruel

Why we dig Nanny novels, diaries and exposes, from From the NY Times.

I know why I like them. Because I was one of them, pushing a stroller through the streets of Manhattan and to the park where the mommies stared at me askance because I looked like a teenager (I was 20), so I sat with the nannies. The nanny genre fictionalises a phenomenon of contemporary family life mainly confined to headlines – the presence within the family of an ambiguous live-in young female employee, the nanny or au pair. Sleeping with the husband (Jude Law) abusing or murdering the child (the Boston Nanny murder), stealing employers stuff (Robert De Niro), suing the employers for back pay (again Robert De Niro), spying on the employers and rifling through their drawers and selling their family secrets to the tabloids (the Beckhams), fabricating tales of abuse (Rob Lowe) or turning them into comic bestsellers (The Nanny Diaries) or juicy tell-alls (Madonna), these sometimes fascinating ,sometimes dull as dishwater young women have earned a place among the dramatis personae of serious contemporary fiction as well.

Unlike Mary Poppins and the stodgy old nannies of Victorian legend pushing perambulators in line, in starchy uniforms and with frozen expressions, the modern nanny is young and beautiful (the original being sexy and magical Phoebe Figalilly  from “Nanny and the Professor”), a sexual rival to the working, beleaugured or less attractive mother. The nanny’s parenting skills often surpass those of the biological mother and she is more energetic and “fun”, so the nanny’s young charge often becomes too fond of her and turns on the mother. The nanny is essential to the smooth functioning of the contemporary family of working parents and contented children, until something goes horribly wrong.

The NY Times piece discusses a crop of new nanny related novels that are coming out this year. Out of the lot, Bad Marie sounds the most intriguing. Marie is a bad, beautiful, “voluptuous” thirty year old, newly sprung from a  six year prisons stay (accessory to murder and armed robbery). The only job Marie can get on the outside is as a nanny for her childhood friend Ellen, a Manhattan executive yuppie with an angelic baby  and a very attractive French novelist husband.

Some titles for the nanny reading inclined:

The Nanny Diaries

Nanny Returns

Bad Marie

Minding Ben


The Nanny

Mary Poppins

The French have a saying about marriage,” the burden of modern parenting is so heavy that it takes three to carry it”.

About kara

We know our letters just fine, and we know our numbers to a certain point, but books were always the realm of four-eyed poindexters with bowler hats and cravats. That’s why it pleases us so that America’s proud illiterates are finally stepping up and pushing back against the crushing tide of education that threatens to swallow us all into its gaping maw of checked facts. Champions of the Ignorantiat will not like it here.
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