Wow, a book driven by plot and plot alone. I have to say it’s been awhile, and I’m fairly impressed.
When I began reading What the Nanny Saw I wasn’t overly impressed or bowled away by the first few chapters. It seemed slow to start and only mildly interesting. However, as I delved deeper into the book, I found it harder and harder to put down. The plot was absolutely compelling.
If I were to rate this book on character development alone, I would probably give it a two. While the story is rich with characters, I found that I was indifferent to them. The main character Ali is the nanny who sees all in her three years working for the wealthy, powerful, and relatively dysfunctional Skinner family. The story is a recount from her memories and perspective, but in third person. She’s not the most interesting character I’ve ever read…far from it, to be honest. While on occasion she did one or two surprising things, overall I found her to be rather bland. This was a stark contrast to the Skinner family, all of whom had very loud or dominant traits. It was wise of Fiona Neill to use an outsider to tell the story. Ali’s role in the family is very intriguing—they can’t function without her and yet she’s not quite a family member and is judged by different standards. She represents the perfect blend of propriety and impropriety.
The plot is where the fun lies. I couldn’t help thinking repeatedly how this would make a fantastic movie. I really wouldn’t be surprised if a year or two from now, I see a movie “based on What the Nanny Saw”. The intriguing family dynamics mixed with society’s expectations and norms set the basis for the rise and fall of this story. Very much a part of London’s high society, the Skinner adults do their best to keep their status as clean and regal as possible while the Skinner children explore pushing their boundaries in inappropriate ways. A glimpse into the lives of other families like theirs provides an interesting and juicy ‘gossip’ factor. Everyone wants to know what and how the other families are doing to slip up. The torrid affairs, corporate lies, and societal fallout when things start to go downhill for the Skinners makes you want to turn the pages as fast as possible to know what comes next.
Despite my initial misgivings and my lack of investment in the characters, I was glued. Thanks to the tangled and fun plotline my rating for the book shot up much higher than I expected it to be! Definitely a good casual read.