📚 The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus

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Goodreads⎮Reviewed June 2017

Narrator: Julia Roberts
Length: 4h 44m (Abridged)
Publisher: Random House Audio⎮2002

Synopsis: 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 Xes’ 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 important, 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.

The Nanny Diaries deftly skewers the manner in which America’s overprivileged raise les petites overprivileged – as if grooming them for a Best in Show competition. Written by two former nannies, this alternately comic and poignant satire punctures the glamour of Manhattan’s upper class.


4.25★ AudiobookThe Nanny Diaries proves that money is a powerful motivator. It’s unthinkable to me that someone would put up with as much as is shown in this story, but I’ve never been in this exact position. I was constantly thinking to myself of what I would do in Nanny’s position, but there really was no right choice. The Nanny Diaries was a story full of moral dilemmas.

I don’t consider myself to be a “kid-person” and hearing about the experiences of a young nanny on the upper Eastside has only strengthened that notion. To be fair, it was the parents who were the worst behaved. I didn’t find The Nanny Diaries to be as comical or entertaining as I think it was supposed to be. Honestly, it annoyed me more than anything else. I was outraged on Nanny’s behalf.

It was wonderfully written and, at times, a bit of lightheartedness peaked through. I chose the abridged version because it was narrated by Julia Roberts and I wanted to check off the “Narrated by famous actor” square on my audio bingo card. Looking back, I wish I had listened to the unabridged version instead. Not only because Roberts’ narration was slightly disappointing (see below), but also because I think much of the comic relief was cut in the abridgment.

The abridged version felt too concentrated. After finishing this audiobook I watched the trailer for the 2007 movie adaptation and realized it was markedly different from what I had just heard. Movie changes are not uncommon, but much of what I saw in the trailer may have been cut during the abridgment instead of the screenwriting process. I suspect the story would have come across as much more balanced and even if I had heard the entire 10 hours, instead of the <5 hour abridged version.

Complaints aside, The Nanny Diaries was an entertaining story. It was fairly easy to listen to and moved along quite quickly. As a listener, I was firmly on the side of the protagonist (“Nanny”), but I occasionally found myself empathizing with the various other characters. The Nanny Diaries managed to show almost every character in a sympathetic light, at one point or another, which gave me conflicting feelings. Who is the real victim here? Is there a victim? Is everyone a victim in some form? Nanny was clearly being extorted. Mrs. X was being cheated on. Ms. Chicago was being used. And poor little Grayer was caught in the middle of it all.

Most fiction stories draw firm lines between Protagonist/Antagonist, Good/Evil. The Nanny Diaries was a mixture of fact and fiction. The authors state upfront that the story was inspired by real experiences, so I assume that is where the multifaceted character depictions stem from, because firm lines between good and bad don’t exist in real life. I frequently had to remind myself that there was an element of truth in the story. From where I sit, the actions of these upper crust characters are seemingly unthinkable. I’m still wondering how much of this story was based in fact and how much of it was embellished for the sake of entertainment. Either way, I can’t think of a better Nanny revenge than writing a best-selling tell-all novel. Hell hath no fury like a nanny scorned!

Narration review: I chose this version of The Nanny Diaries because it boasted America’s sweetheart, Julia Roberts, as its narrator. In the past, I’ve had trouble listening to audiobooks narrated by popular actors, largely because I associate them with external roles. The same was true here, but only to a certain degree. To me, it was always Julia Roberts reading the story. In my mind, she wasn’t able to become “Nanny”. Not because I already know her with an outside character from another show or movie, but because I know her as herself.

She read the part fantastically. Her tone was enjoyable and she was able to adjust it just enough to provide adequate distinction between characters. Instead of “doing voices”, she simply adjusted her own voice (cadence, pace, or pitch) when reading different characters. It worked well enough for me to be able to discern who was speaking, but it wasn’t anything I’d write home about. I guess, because of her acting prowess, I was somehow expecting more from her performance. After all, she was the reason I chose this version of the audiobook. My tip to you is not to be lured in by the prospect of being read to by a famous actor. Instead, choose the unabridged version with the professional narrator. ♣︎

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