Some books you pick up based on recommendations, some because you like the cover, others because you have read the author before, and some because you need to have enough books. To be left without anything to read, is my constant fear. I absolutely hate it. I am most comfortable when I have about 4 books unread on my shelves. So this was picked as a shelf filler.
Ali Sparrow needs money for her tuition for her course at the university and needs to get away from the university after having an affair with her tutor. An advert from Byrony and Nick Skinner for a nanny catches her eye. She applies and gets the job. She has no idea what she is in for.
Before she knows it, she becomes the mainstay of their lives. She is there for the five-year-old twins, for their teenage daughter and also keeping everything sorted for Byrony. As a nanny, she becomes the invisible presence around the house, like furniture, the person who is expected to be around when the family needed her, but also the person who needed to blend into the background when they needed her to. Nick and Byrony are a a golden couple, super busy, very rich couple living in the heart of London. Their lifestyle is as different as it could be from Ali’s but somehow, Ali loves her job. Unlike the other nannies she comes across, she doesn’t have much to complain about. She gets paid well, gets to go on holidays with the family, and Byrony is fair with her. She had signed up for a tenure of 1 year, but ends up staying longer, both because she needed the money to help her family, and because she was enjoying the job. Sometimes, as I read it, it annoyed me that she could enjoy it so much! I mean, how can someone enjoy so much of the donkey work? But I guess, that is how it is, isn’t it? Each to his own.
All of a sudden, the bubble bursts. The family finds itself right in the middle of the financial scandal of 2008. Nick is in serious trouble, and it looks like he is about to take Byrony down with him. Overnight from high flyers, they become almost-fugitives. Trapped in their house, besieged by the press, all their so called friends keeping a safe distance from them, their housekeeper resigning from her post, life is suddenly a mess. The only person who stays put is Ali. Ali is now in a position to tell all, if she wants to. She realizes that you end up knowing a lot about the family, when you work in a position like that. The days that follow are a test of Ali’s loyalty and honesty.
A very interesting tale. I had expected this to be something less serious and more fun, but I loved it! The credit crisis must be one of the financial scandals which most of us remember clearly. It was fascinating to read a book with characters who were so intimately involved in the scandal. And the effect it had on the families of these people. The lives that the rich lead are also very interesting, especially the way the help is treated. While Ali is not ill-treated or anything, it is a different type of environment, where you do so much for the family, but at the end of the day, are still just a help. The extravagance and the lavishness with which the Skinners and their peers lived their lives, must be such a contrast to the nannies’ who live in with them. As you read the book, you kind of realize why so many nannies are out there, ready to reveal all about the rich and the famous that they worked with.
I really enjoyed this book. Possibly also because I started it with no expectations. This one, took a little time to get into momentum, but when it did, it was unputdownable. A very interesting book, realistic book, one that blended two very different topics and very successfully indeed.
I would rate it a 4/5.
About the Author
Fiona Neill is a novelist and journalist. She has four books to her credit. Her first book,’ The Secret life of a Slummy Mummy’ went on to become a huge bestseller. She lives in London with her husband and children.