Black's new novel is Close to the Bone.
Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I recently read The Nanny Diaries. This is not my usual choice of reading material, due to its lack of murder victims and at least one car chase, but I did so in the name of Research. I intend to use a nanny as a character in an upcoming work, and, not having children, I needed some background. I found the book hugely entertaining and hilarious in her descriptions of the ultra rich, not to mention criminally entitled, echelon of New York.Visit Lisa Black's website.
The authors specify that this is a work of fiction, and I very much hope that is true, but it contained so much detail that it read like fact. It also seemed to lag a little bit whenever the story turned to her own life, though that may be just me. I felt the same way about The Devil Wears Prada, a greatly similar tale of just how politely evil very rich women can be.
Despite my childless status I could not help but grow to care about this bright, sweet four-year-old who has everything money can buy except the only thing he wants--a parent he might be permitted to encounter for more than five minutes per day. It’s as if certain women marry these fabulously wealthy men and from that moment on their entire existence is focused on keeping themselves, their homes and (at a distance) their children as completely perfect as humanly possible, and all in order to stay married to that fabulously wealthy man. Whether this works or not, the child-accessory is meant to be kept in a glass case along with the Ming vase. No wonder, my philistine mind thinks, rich men are such A-holes. Their parents give birth to them and immediately thereafter avoid them like ebola. They’re left with a succession of nannies and housekeepers who come and go. They aren’t allowed to get attached to anyone…ever.
I found myself lying in bed at night, worried about what would happen to this child when the inevitable separation from the nanny occurred. I despaired that filthy rich people aren’t reported to the local child welfare department (though it would be difficult to characterize someone in $200 size 3 sneakers as ‘neglected’) and that the nanny lacked the power to demand therapy now, before the kid becomes a complete sociopath.
The author impressively builds the character of the mother slowly over the course of the book. She starts out as a little prissy and a lot self-absorbed, but, the intro makes clear, that is hardly unusual in her circle. She becomes clueless and annoying, and yet the nanny and I actually feel sorry for her when it becomes clear that her husband, whom she is working so desperately to keep, is clearly having an affair. By the end of the book she has morphed into the worst villain I have ever known. I would gladly pay money to see this woman torn limb from limb in a public arena. I would have more empathy for Adolph Hitler.
Of course, the book illustrates with a few examples, there are rich parents who are also good parents, and there are nannies used as they should be--as a reliable, consistent fill-in for date nights and business dinners, or for the few hours per day between the time the kids get home from school and the parents get home from work. The only people I know who had a nanny didn’t know a Monet from a movie trailer and thought China and Japan were the same country (I swear I am not making that up) but they also had a stone business in their back yard which the wife had to run while the husband made deliveries, four small children and a lot of heavy vehicles going back and forth. Therefore they had a nanny, which was eminently sensible and a circumstance the kids will not need to relate to a therapist in future years.
At best a nanny makes the child’s world more consistent, nurturing and safe, and provides the parents some much-needed respite. At worst a nanny becomes a personal slave, bearing indignities no employee should have to withstand in a profession where one cannot afford a bad reference.
So I enjoyed the book very much. But one thing’s for sure--I’ll never scoff at the phrase “poor little rich boy” again.
My Book, The Movie: Trail of Blood.
The Page 69 Test: Trail of Blood.
My Book, The Movie: Defensive Wounds.
The Page 69 Test: Defensive Wounds.
My Book, The Movie: Blunt Impact.
The Page 69 Test: Blunt Impact.
The Page 69 Test: The Price of Innocence.
The Page 69 Test: Close to the Bone.