Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Au pair by Janey Fraser

'If only she could pick out the good bits from each au pair (and their families) and roll them into one!'

Jilly is becoming increasingly worried about money, and after listening to her friend Paula's problems with her current au pair, Jilly discovers that, apparently, anyone can start up and run an au pair agency, so this is what she herself decides to do. It seems an attractive proposition, a job she can do at home, thereby allowing her to look after her own children, and to help out other mothers in the area who need additional childcare.

What follows are her attempts to successfully match au pairs to families, and to keep the au pairs and the families happy when differences and problems arise, and boy, do they arise! Also the story delves deeper into the background of some of the families, in particular Matthew, a widower who is battling to do his best for his young daughter Lottie, a sweet little girl who seems nevertheless determined to see off any au pair who comes her way! Similarly, the story also looks into the lives of the au pairs, most closely that of Marie-France, a young French woman who has come to the UK determined to find out the truth about her father, and following in the footsteps of her mother, who was an au pair twenty years ago in the same area. 

Poor Jilly made me feel quite sorry for her and also quite stressed as her situation got a bit out of hand, trying to look after her own three children and dog, and run her new business, without an au pair of her own, and with little support or encouragement from her husband David. 

The au pairs themselves are a mixed bunch, with their own motivations and reasons for coming to the UK to work. Some of the families leave a bit to be desired in their treatment of the au pairs too. The author has incorporated little passages with interesting asides regarding au pairs, language, duties and so on, at the start of each chapter, and I enjoyed these and found them a fun addition to the book. One of the major contradictions, or difficulties, in this relationship, is summed up by one of these passages, an extract from 'Jilly's Au Pair Agency: Guidelines for Families - An au pair should be treated as a member of the family. However it is not always wise to let her get too close.' Evidently some of the families and some of the au pairs could do well to heed this advice.

I liked Matthew, and the exploration of the challenges facing a single male parent who is trying to maintain his career and care for his young daughter after losing his wife rang true. 

The Au pair is an entertaining, light and emotional read scattered with amusing moments as various mishaps occur. The plot moves along at a good pace and there is always something happening to keep you reading on. Janey Fraser has the knack of presenting an interesting bunch of characters and fleshing them out, keeping several branches of the storyline running alongside each other successfully, and providing situations that keep the reader interested as the story develops. 

I don't know if I've ever met anyone who has employed an au pair, and I'm not sure how widespread the employment of au pairs is these days, so I can't comment on the accuracy or realism of any of the circumstances, although as someone who has lived in another country, it is certainly interesting to observe the humour and curiosity regarding cultural differences. I would definitely look to this author again if I were in the mood for a well written, amusing and satisfying read about aspects of modern life and it’s ups and downs.

Published by Arrow Books

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this novel to read and review, and also to the author for asking me to review it.

You can find out more on the author's website here. Janey Fraser also writes as Sophie King.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and leave a comment. It's great reading your comments and I really appreciate them :)