Title: What the Nanny Saw
Author: Fiona Neill
Release Date: August 2, 2012
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
When Ali applies for a nanny job with the Skinner family, she doesn’t think it will be easy. But she doesn’t realize how difficult it will be. Nick and Bryony are both heavily involved in the world of finance, and as the markets crash around them, more and more eyes are on Nick, an investment banker with Lehman Brothers. When things are at their worst, a journalist (and friend of Bryony’s) approaches Ali, urging her to tell her own side of the story before she’s implicated in the family’s issues.
What the Nanny Saw is an indictment of the wealthy, of the bankers and Wall Street types involved in the global financial meltdown. Nick and Bryony aren’t bad people; in fact, Nick sees the downturn coming and tries to warn his bosses, his bank, or anyone who will listen that they can’t keep doing business the way they are. He makes some bad choices, yes, but he’s also smart enough to recognize that the way the financial world is operating is unsustainable.
But while Bryony pays lip service to the fact that she believes him, even she is out of control with her spending. She doesn’t truly understand that they aren’t always going to be able to buy houses or boats on a whim and refuses to take no for an answer. It’s an interesting dynamic between Nick and Bryony. They’re both smart but make some very self-deluded choices in the name of wealth and maintaining a lifestyle that is horribly wasteful and indulgent.
Ali watches all of this in What the Nanny Saw, an insider, but not a member of the family. She’s a well-written character in a novel full of rich, fully developed people. The novel has two main facets: the intriguing characters and a competent, easy-to-understand explanation of the financial meltdown. Neill does a wonderful job with breaking the failure of the banks down, but if you’re tired of reading about economic issues, then this area of the book might not work as well for you. It’s a pretty large part of the book, and makes up a good chunk of the dialogue.
While What the Nanny Saw is certainly an interesting character study, it’s overly long. Neill wants to give the reader a sense of Ali’s life with the Skinners, and she seems to do that by narrating each day in Ali’s tenure, whether something happens or not. On one hand, it gives the reader an intimate knowledge of the characters, but on the other, it makes the book seem tedious at times. This is one of those cases where less detail would have gone a long way.
Overall, What the Nanny Saw is an interesting novel. The characters really leap off the page, but the length and pages in between the major events of the novel can drag quite a bit. If you enjoy primarily character driven stories that really get into the hidden corners and nooks, this might be a good choice, but if you’re easily turned off from books that seem to wander, I’d look for a different book.