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BOOK REVIEW: Nanny Confidential by Philippa Christian

| 22 January 2015 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Nanny Confidential by Philippa Christian

Allen & Unwin
December 2014
Paperback, $24.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell



A little about this reviewer, on the nannying/childcare front:

I once worked in a childcare centre with a little girl who would throw massive tantrums the moment there was the slightest hint things might not go her way. Within two weeks of my working with her, her mother sought me out and thanked me profusely, insisting that I let her know if there was ever anything she could do for me.
Her daughter was saying please and thank you, was a lot happier, and was making those around her a lot less stressed. All I had done was ask the girl to think about how she might feel if her friends did the same to her. I didn’t talk down to her, I talked to her like a peer, even though she was four years old.

A little girl I knew from five months old would be so devastated when her mother left, that she just wouldn’t settle. I managed to distract her with a sturdy but jingly necklace I always wore, and when she was older that became a bit of a game between us. She would put my necklace on, then take it off and put it on me. Then we’d roll around on the floor and have cuddles, until I tickled her, of course!

A family of three boys and one girl put me through my paces for the short time I worked with them. The older two would test the boundaries as they got to know me, as is the way for all six and seven year olds, but I enjoyed every moment of it.
It warmed my heart when their mother told me a couple of months later about how they had been reading a book and found a consistency error. During my time with this family, we discussed my freelance work as an editor and what that involved. One of the boys had seen this error and said, “Steph would have spotted that, wouldn’t she?”

I work in retail now. I miss spending time with my kids, but I do appreciate the stability of full time job for a big company. So Nanny Confidential sounded like the perfect book for me. I was so eager for this to be my next Nanny Diaries.

But there were a few problems.

The story focussed on one family, which is completely fine, but it felt as though the author tried to cram a whole lot of experiences from various families into one storyline. Often the author would lead a chapter with a story about the latest crazy request from Alysha, and would then run through a few stories from other familes that related in some way to this request, before coming back to the story at hand.

One chapter started with the question, “Will, is it weird for your boss to ask you to get a bikini wax?’ The character then went off on an internal tangent of what had brought this question up, and then ran through the similar situations for other families. Finally, five pages later, Will answers the question. Not because he was thinking about how to answer it, but because that was how long the tangent went on for.

At times the author seems to have gotten confused over the names of the children and how old they were. The character worked with this family for a little over a year. Emphasis mine.

In the background of the photograph, you could clearly see me a few steps behind Alysha, pushing a four-child buggy, with the baby strapped to my chest in a sling and the oldest sister, Harlow, trotting next to me, hanging on to my shirt tail.
‘Soap star Alysha Appleby needs help handling her brood. Six children under the age of nine would be a match for any mom,’ it read.

When Alysha gave birth to Harlow I was given a ‘push present’ of a white-gold Chanel watch, despite the fact that I wasn’t even in the labour suite.

The three eldest Appleby sisters, Goldie, Harlow and Cherry, had been asked to star in a commerical for a ‘healthy’ fast food chain where the bean burgers are served in gluten-free buns and the chips are made from sweet potato friend in coconut oil.

But I had underestimated the power of a seven-year-old with puppy dog eyes, as Harlow stared up at her customer. ‘But it tastes like sunshine,’ she bleated, ‘and we made it all by ourselves…’ Wow, this girl knew how to do the hard sell.”

I don’t think I convinced them, as seven-year-old Goldie had given me a disbelieving look.


In addition to this, the employer who had been so against the public knowing she had a nanny invited a reality television show to film her life, cameras in every room including the nanny’s. And the character didn’t even comment on this change of heart.

It seemed like there was just too much coming from too many different places, and this is likely why the author had a hard time keeping the names of the kids straight.
This book might have read better if it was entirely based on the Appleby family, or if each chapter had focused on one of these points, without the family there to tie them together.


All in all, Nanny Confidential was a little predictable and it felt like it was lacking something. It failed to wow me, but was an easy, quick read with some genuinely sweet and interesting moments, a lot of which happened in the last forty pages.   

It did make me really want to get back into nannying, though.


This review goes out to Sean, Caalan, Fergus and Isla for keeping me on my toes and spotting errors in books – I’ll make editors out of you yet!
For Lucia, who always made sure my necklace was on crooked, and her little brother Hugh who I sadly don’t really know yet – my own fault.
To Elle, for realising that words yield better results than screams.
And to ALL of my kids over the years.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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