THE GOOD NANNY
Release date: 07/01/2004
A starred review indicates a book of outstanding quality. A review with a blue-tinted title indicates a book of unusual commercial interest that hasn't received a star.
The perfect nanny exposes the shortcomings of her not-so-perfect employers in this scathing satire by Cheever, author of the memoir Selling Ben Cheever and three previous novels (Famous After Death , etc.). Like a literary Nanny Diaries told from the perspective of the beleaguered parents, Cheever's tart tale skewers its protagonists' ambition, materialism, literary pretensions and sheltered lives. Stuart Cross and Andie Wilde, a sophisticated pair with interesting careers in Manhattan—Stuart is an editor at a prestigious small publishing house, and Andie has just been promoted to the "enviable but not entirely respectable position" of top film critic for the New York Post —have recently bought a huge house in the suburbs and hired a nanny, the estimable Louise Washington. Louise, who is "Miss Washington" to her employers but "Sugar" to nine-year-old Ginny and six-year-old Jane, is the ideal nanny (she reads Hilaire Belloc to her charges), but also frighteningly accomplished (she's an excellent painter) and threateningly black (her best friend is a nice guy who just happens to have spent some time in prison). Andie, feeling displaced, becomes more and more paranoid about the nanny's activities, while Stuart suffers a professional blow and is galled to learn that the Museum of Modern Art is interested in the nanny's paintings. Cheever is a remorseless observer ("Stuart turned to his girls. Ginny, his eldest daughter, the fat one, had a large stain on the front of her white blouse") and generally accurate social chronicler (though it seems unlikely that the refined Stuart would buy a house in a development called Heavenly Mansions). As this satisfying if sometimes stiflingly mannered morality tale builds to its startlingly violent conclusion, it becomes more than clear that it isn't the nanny Stuart and Andie should fear—it's their own selfish expectations. Agent, Kathy Robbins . (July)