Cover image for The good nanny : a novel
The good nanny : a novel
Cheever, Benjamin, 1948-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury : Distributed to the trade by Holtzbrinck Publishers, [2004]

Physical Description:
278 pages ; 22 cm
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A searing black comedy about nannies and parents, publishing and prejudice, and the not-so-gentle art of ambition.

The new nanny is perfect. A natural with children, a whiz in the kitchen, and a talented painter, the only thing Miss Washington can't seem to do is make a mistake. But when Stuart Cross loses his editing job and decides to write the great American novel, the nanny's excellence quickly becomes a sore spot.

Stuart, paralyzed by writer's block, envies her impending artistic success; his wife Andie doesn't trust her and wishes she could stay home with their daughters; and on top of that, even a mention of the nanny's old boyfriend, ex-con Toussaint, makes the local police uneasy. The heightening jealousy and resentment that the parents feel toward their surrogate sets into motion a chain of unexpected events and surprising reversals that will end, less than a week later, in a suspected kidnapping, a half-million-dollar book deal, and the unpleasant question of just who, exactly, the guilty party is.

Author Notes

Benjamin Cheever has been a reporter for daily newspapers and an editor at Reader's Digest . He is the author of the acclaimed memoir Selling Ben Cheever and the novels The Plagiarist , The Partisan, and Famous After Death , and the editor of The Letters of John Cheever . He has taught at Bennington College and The New School for Social Research.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Cheever, the author of three previous novels (including Famous after Death0 , 1999) and several works of nonfiction 0 ( Selling Ben Cheever0 , 2001, among others), has written what is obviously intended to be a black comedy, but, despite the characters encountering situations that border on the absurd, it seems more awkward and uncomfortable than funny. The main characters are Stuart Cross, a successful editor, and his wife, Andie, a successful movie critic. They are both oblivious to the world around them and move through it with entitlement, eventually wreaking havoc on the lives of their young daughters and their new nanny. They provide their two young daughters with the kind of benevolent neglect that the fictional rich often do. When they are fortunate enough to engage the services of Louise, a talented artist as well as a devoted caregiver, their unwarranted suspicions of the woman, who is black, set in motion a series of events that gives the book its surprisingly tragic ending. Cheever's name-recognition (son of famous fiction writer John Cheever) will be the primary calling card here. --Patrick Wall Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Jealousy and resentment over a new nanny wreak havoc in this black comedy by Cheever (Famous After Death). Stuart and Andie are a typical family living in a heavily mortgaged house in the suburbs. Since they are both busy career people with demanding, high-profile jobs, they decide to hire a nanny to look after their two daughters. Louise is the perfect choice. She's a natural with children, a wonderful cook, and a cultured painter who loves to take the children to the museum. At first, Andie and Stuart are enamored of the nanny, but when she takes care of the children too well, Andie becomes nervous and untrusting. Stuart dismisses her misgivings as just separation anxiety until a series of unfortunate events, fueled by miscommunication, leads to a shocking confrontation with disastrous results. Biting humor and witty dialog create a satirical tone that complements a ludicrous, disturbing story. This black comedy first appears light and carefree and then packs a wallop, before wrapping everything up in an uneven, lopsided ending. Recommended for larger public libraries.-Kellie Gillespie, City of Mesa Lib., AZ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.