A university student gets an insider’s look at the world banking crisis when she becomes nanny to a London financier, from the British author of Slummy Mummy (2007).
In 2006, Ali Sparrow has mounting tuition debt and a rocky affair with a professor she would like to escape. To solve both problems, she takes a year off from university to nanny for the Skinner family. In the world of London nannies, populated by buxom Eastern European refugees, Ali is quite a find: Though without experience, she is legal and in possession of a driver’s license. For her part, Ali has never seen such wealth. Father Nick is in charge of Lehman’s London branch and Bryony runs a financial PR firm. Their Holland Park mansion is filled with art (Ali stashes her Francis Bacon poster in the closet when she notices the real thing is above the fireplace), a ridiculous pug, a Philippina housekeeper and four children. Jake is 17 and soon off to Oxford; Izzy is 14 and flirting with boys and anorexia; and then there are the twins, Hector and Alfie, Ali’s primary charges. Ali’s story—a bright girl from a fishing village making good, with a junkie for an older sister and an unspectacular love life—really plays second fiddle to the drama at hand: the rise and fall of the glamorous Skinner family. Nick is mysterious and perhaps guilty of insider trading, Bryony is intense and controlling, Bryony’s father, Foy, is a fabulous drunken lothario, and the twins are a bit eerie, what with their secret language, empathic responses and refusal to be separated. It is all too much and not enough at once—a life lived extravagantly and shallowly, a series of parties, meetings and personal tragedies to schedule.
Not much happens in Neill’s novel, but her portrayal of the family is happily addictive and their greed-driven downfall a little bit delicious.