McLaughlin, Emma 1964(?)–
McLaughlin, Emma 1964(?)–
Born c. 1964. Education: Attended New York University.
(With Nicola Kraus) The Nanny Diaries, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2002.
(With Nicola Kraus) Citizen Girl, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2004.
(With Nicola Kraus) Dedication, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2007.
The Nanny Diaries was abridged for audiobook by Random House, 2002, and adapted for a feature film, written and directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, 2007.
Emma McLaughlin and coauthor Nicola Kraus made a splash with their literary debut The Nanny Diaries, a novel about a modern-day Mary Poppins. Both McLaughlin and Kraus were nannies for elite New York City families while they pursued their college degrees. The complaining of parents about how hard it was to find good nannies "really hit a nerve for both of us," McLaughlin told Stephanie Swilley in a Book Page Web site interview. The pair penned a fictionalized composite of their experiences with some thirty families over eight years. After the manuscript was turned down by several publishing houses because their satire was "too strident," Time contributor Belinda Luscombe reported, St. Martin's Press finally took the chance on it. The novel became a best seller: within several months of publication more than 500,000 copies were in readers' hands, and McLaughlin and Kraus were making the rounds of the talk-show circuit.
In The Nanny Diaries, the authors portray a Park Avenue family called X, whose four-year-old son Grayer is the focus of attention—of the nanny, not his parents. Nan the nanny, a twenty-one-year-old student, takes Grayer to numerous classes, cooks health-food snacks, and ponders whether to tell Mrs. X about Mr. X's affair.
The work garnered praise for its humor. On the Buzzle. com Web site, Stephanie Zacharek characterized the work as a "tart, lively and genuinely openhearted debut novel … that is a sharply barbed comedy of manners." Swilley also remarked: "With plenty of juicy material, Emma and Nicola admit they drew from their own experiences to create this wickedly funny look at life as a New York nanny." Hephzibah Anderson wryly commented in New Statesman: "Ultimately, so much of what fills the pages of this highly entertaining debut seems just too bizarre to have been made up." Library Journal reviewer Beth Gibbs decided that some of the episodes of this "amusingly cutthroat novel" are "hilarious," and Booklist reviewer Beth Warrell also praised the work, calling it a "fast-paced, witty, thoroughly entertaining tale." So, too, Judith Warner, writing in the Washington Post, determined that the novel "is supposed to be a rip-roaring social satire, a light voyeuristic romp through the underwear drawers of New York's very richest families. It succeeds in large part. McLaughlin and Kraus are good on the details."
A handful of reviewers commented on McLaughlin and Kraus's characterizations. Although a Publishers Weekly contributor found "especially impressive the authors' ability to allow the loathsome Mrs. X occasional flashes of humanity and pathos," another critic had a different opinion. "The Xes are too one-dimensionally awful to seem real," commented Danielle Steel in People, "but the authors manage a poignant, nuanced portrayal of Grayer." Warner pointed out what she considers to be a "significant weakness" in The Nanny Diaries. Although Nan is a "good observer" and the "obvious outrage she feels in the Xes' emotionally toxic universe provides a welcome moral anchor for the book … as a character, she's limited."
Yet the work has another dimension—the pity factor. "Laughing at how far these parents will go in their daft demands keeps the book comic instead of woebegone," Swilley added. "The Nanny Diaries may provide cackles of schadenfreude among the Upper East Side private school crowd," concluded Warner, "but outsiders are more likely to be struck by the sadness of it all."
McLaughlin and Kraus have teamed up on further titles, as well. Their 2004 effort, Citizen Girl, portrays the trials and tribulations of a young woman on her own in the big city. The protagonist, named Girl, has difficulty finding suitable employment in a down-turning economy but must begin paying off her student loans. To do so, she has to deal with the rude and crude behavior of her boss, Guy, at the Internet company, My Company, a consulting firm to women's products. Girl conducts focus groups for women, a far cry from the fulfillment of her feminist ideals, but there are those pesky loans to pay off. Finally, she must decide how far down the moral ladder she is willing to slide, and with the help of a young man she makes her decision. Citizen Girl did not achieve either the sales or the critical success as the authors' first novel. Entertainment Weekly reviewer Karen Valby found it "a royal bore," and a Publishers Weekly contributor also found it wanting: "Though witty and biting in spots, this bitter tale is too schematic and strident to be much fun." Allison Adato, writing in People, thought this second novel was "somewhat tiresome." USA Today contributor Carol Memmott also was less than enthused about this second novel, noting: "The plot is so thin that the authors fill this joyless, uninspiring book with pointless scenes including Girl arguing with a waiter, collating paper or listing the contents of the office supply cabinet." A Kirkus Reviews critic was more positive, however, concluding: "Many, many funny lines, somewhat incoherent plot. But Girl's job-hunting woes will resonate with lots of readers." Similarly, Booklist contributor Meredith Parets commented: "The authors have conjured up a vision of America that's just this side of dystopian, and their funhouse-mirror worldview generates its own strange suspense."
McLaughlin and Kraus's third novel, Dedication, also received a variety of reviews from the critics. USA Today reviewer Deirdre Donahue found it "so awful, so unfunny, so confusing that you'd suspect alien abduction," but Hannah Sampson, reviewing the same novel in the Miami Herald, termed it "an appealing tale of giddy love, heartbreak and the ultimate triumph of girl power." The novel features a thirty-year-old woman, Kate Hollis, who has spent the last dozen years planning some sort of revenge on her childhood boyfriend, Jake. He broke up with her when they were seniors in high school and subsequently became a famous rock star. Now, alerted by her best friend Laura that Jake is returning to their hometown for a television special, Kate thinks she has found the perfect opportunity to get back at him, but instead finds old flames rekindled. Library Journal writer Andrea Y. Griffith found little to like in this third novel, noting that "the story is implausible, and Jake never seems worth all the fuss." However, Sampson went on to term Dedication "surprisingly enjoyable." A critic for Kirkus Reviews thought the book "is spot-on in its depiction of Kate and Laura's early girlish hysteria," and further termed the novel a "bittersweet coming-of-age tale with flashes of wit and an especially sympathetic heroine." Similarly, Booklist contributor Kristine Huntley felt that "the authors pull out a surprise and give the reader, and Kate, a completely unexpected and wholly satisfying conclusion." Likewise, a Publishers Weekly contributor concluded: "McLaughlin and Kraus do get the nagging need for closure in even the shallowest relationships comically right."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 2002, Beth Warrell, review of The Nanny Diaries, p. 923; October 1, 2004, Meredith Parets, review of Citizen Girl, p. 283; March 15, 2007, Kristine Huntley, review of Dedication, p. 5.
Bookseller, February 2, 2007, "Nanny Diarists Sign for S&S," p. 13.
Entertainment Weekly, March 15, 2002, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, review of The Nanny Diaries, p. 7; November 19, 2004, Karen Valby, review of Citizen Girl, p. 87.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2002, review of The Nanny Diaries, pp. 67-68; October 1, 2004, review of Citizen Girl, p. 934; April 1, 2007, review of Dedication.
Library Journal, March 1, 2002, Beth Gibbs, review of The Nanny Diaries, p. 140; April 15, 2007, Andrea Y. Griffith, review of Dedication, p. 74.
M2 Best Books, February 9, 2004, "‘Nanny Diaries’ Authors Second Novel Runs into Trouble."
Miami Herald, June 6, 2007, Hannah Sampson, review of Dedication.
New Statesman, March 18, 2002, Hephzibah Anderson, review of The Nanny Diaries, p. 56.
New York, March 4, 2002, Daniel Mendelson, "Nanny Cam," p. 52.
New York Times, February 7, 2002, Anthony Haden-Guest, "A Nanny's-Eye View of the Park Avenue Life," p. F1; March 4, 2002, Janet Maslin, "The Walls May Not Have Ears, but the Nanny Does," p. B8; February 9, 2004, Hugo Lindgren, "‘Girl’ Appears Not to Have Same Glamour as ‘Nanny’," p. 6.
People, March 25, 2002, Danielle Steel, review of The Nanny Diaries, pp. 49-50; November 15, 2004, Allison Adato, review of Citizen Girl, p. 48.
Publishers Weekly, February 25, 2002, review of The Nanny Diaries, p. 40; April 22, 2002, Daisy Maryles and Dick Donahue, "Score _1 for the Nannies," p. 26; October 11, 2004, review of Citizen Girl, p. 53; April 2, 2007, "Dedication," p. 38.
Time, March 25, 2002, Belinda Luscombe, "Rocking the Cradle," p. 71.
USA Today, November 18, 2004, Carol Memmott, review of Citizen Girl, p. 4; June 7, 2007, Deirdre Donahue, review of Dedication, p. 6.
Washington Post, April 10, 2002, Judith Warner, "Bringing up Baby on the Upper East Side," p. C4.
Washington Post Book World, February 6, 2005, Susan Adams, "Facing the Loss of What You Love, Whether It's a Dog, a Husband or Tour Ideals: Girl Power," p. 13.
Book Page,http://www.bookpage.com/ (May 7, 2002), Stephanie Swilley, "Oh Baby! New York Nannies Dish the Dirt."
BookReporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (January 3, 2008), Bethanne Kelly Patrick, review of Dedication.
Bookslut,http://www.bookslut.com/ (January 3, 2008), Gena Anderson, review of Citizen Girl.
Buzzle.com,http://www.buzzle.com/ (March 21, 2002), Stephanie Zacharek, review of The Nanny Diaries.
CBSNews.com,http://www.cbsnews.com/ (March 11, 2002), Jill Serjeant, "Ask the Nanny."
Gothamist,http://www.gothamist.com/ (December 23, 2004), interview with Nikola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin.