Penned by bestselling writing team Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin, The Nanny Returns once again explores a world of ‘toxic parenting’ inspired by the duo’s real life (mis)adventures during their years as nannies to rich, but dysfunctional, Manhattan-based families.
This time around, the fictional tale of Nan Saunders, now Nan Hutchinson, picks up twelve years after her dramatic departure from the house of her former employers, the cold Mr and Mrs ‘X’.
Here’s a brief back-story for those of you who didn’t bother with the first of this would-be trilogy: Nan was rudely fired by Mrs ‘X’ because her son, a four-year-old by the name of Grayer, seemed to be getting far too attached to his nanny.
Meanwhile, our protagonist, beyond exasperated by the lack of parenting skills shown by the couple, leaves behind a tell-tale, no holds barred rant on the nanny cam, before having to walk away from the emotionally scarred child.
Twelve years on from marrying her love interest in the first novel — Ryan ‘Harvard Hottie’ Hutchinson — Nan’s back in Manhattan trying to renovate her own house and deter her husband from his blatant desire of fatherhood.
Within the first few pages itself, Nan receives a late-night visit from a now sixteen-year-old Grayer, who has recently discovered her aforementioned nanny cam speech.
As predicted by Nan, the emotional detachment of the ‘X’s left the boy a disturbed, angst-ridden and substance-abusing teenager, saddled with the task of caring for his seven-year-old brother Stilton as his parents sort through a messy public divorce.
And that’s when Nan, who believes she abandoned Grayer, is guilt-tripped into helping the children out. Unfortunately, that also means she has to put her own issues with her husband, friends, family and her new-found consulting business on the back burner.
The first problem, one that actively diverts a reader’s attention from the plot within the first fifteen pages, is the colloquial style of writing employed by Kraus and McLaughlin. It’s as if their years of ‘professional’ writing have failed to mature or hone their new-found skills in the least. In fact, it’s rather painful putting yourself through Nan’s various internal monologues as the dialogue is often incomprehensible, even frustrating, because it’s spoken in a text message style.
Equally tiring are the issues covered in the book. It’s all been said and done in the first installment and this is simply a 305-page, ‘I told you so’ extravaganza, which becomes evident within the first few chapters.
Unsurprisingly, it’s all downhill from there. Unimportant, and equally unimaginative, sub plots relating to Nan’s former friends, career and family, crop up and are dismissed before there’s a chance for you to believe in them.
But, worst of all, is the general detachment from Nan’s original character that is felt as the pages are turned. Sure, she’s still the semi-quirky, fun loving, moralistic and compassionate soul she was in The Nanny Diaries, but the spark that kept you turning pages then is definitely missing now.
However, The Nanny Returns is not without positives — it’s a revelation of sorts if you haven’t read the first book, and a voyeuristic ride into the lives of the powerful, wealthy and morally corrupt upper class.
You can almost feel Grayer and Stilton’s desperation and pain at being cursed with the eternally absent parents Mr and Mrs ‘X’. Also offered is a look at how the richer seam of society was affected by the economic meltdown.
Still, this book is definitely not a ‘must-have’ novel that we recommend you waste your money on, especially if you’re selective in your reading material. However, if you’re a huge fan of The Nanny Diaries, or chick-lit fare in general, then perhaps The Nanny Returns won’t prove itself a total time-waster.
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