Another Austen (Melissa Nathan - The Nanny)

I recently dsicovered Melissa Nathan.
The first book I read by her was Persuading Annie, a Persuasion retelling (if you don't know by now that Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel, you really should subscribe to this blog. jk) and I instantly fell in love with her humor, her wit and her swoooooooony scenes.

And then, I grabbed the nanny.
Here is the synopsis (from goodreads)

Twenty-three-year-old Jo Green knows that if she has to spend one more night in ultra-provincial Niblet-Upon-Avon she'll go completely bonkers! So she answers an ad in the paper, bids her devoted boyfriend Shaun adieu, and heads off to the big city. With a new job that offers excitement; a cool car; and her own suite with a TV, DVD player, and a cell phone, how can she go wrong?

Then she meets . . . the Fitzgeralds -- Dick and Vanessa and their unruly brood of rugrats who have suddenly been entrusted into Jo's care. There's eight-year-old "psycho-babe" Cassandra; bloodthirsty Zak, the six-year-old Terminator; and timid little Tallulah.

So what else could go wrong? How about the arrival of Dick's children from his first marriage: teenage Toby and (gulp!) all-grown-up-and-very-nicely-at-that Josh the accountant? And now that she has to temporarily share her room with Josh, Jo's head is really in a spin -- because with her hometown beau still in the picture and a sexy possibility sleeping just a foot away, life has suddenly gotten very complicated indeed!

Man, this book ruined my life in the best way possible.
I just couldn't stop laughing. Then I had to stop laughing in order to read more, because I just couldn't. Put. It. Down. 
On one hand I needed to know what was going to happen with Jo and Cassie and Vanessa and Josh and every other character in the book -seriously, can't this author write one unlikeable character? I was in love with the bad guys and the good guys and the kids and the adults... I even miss the stupid house they lived in now that I'm done with the novel. And, to be honest, it's not that they were all lovable per se. It's that they were alive. 
They leapt out of the page at me, with their little mannerisms, their weird comments, the little details of their clothes. I was there. I did not read this book. I did not watch it unfold like a movie in my head as I read, like you generally do with a good, engaging book. I lived in it. I know these people intimately, I was there when they were behaving like idiots, when their worlds came crashing down, when they fell in love. I miss them right now so much that I can see the hugest reading slump heading my way, and I don't even care. 

Which brings us to Josh (the not even caring does). I mean I've never read of a more gorgeous, irritating, vulnerable and totally mouthwatering hero since mr Darcy.
And of course The Nanny has a million Pride and Prejudice points, where the main characters swap opinions about each other maddeningly (and hilariously), and where romance surprises you in the most swoonworthy and unexpected of ways.

To be honest, I've read about three of Melissa Nathan's novels, and I can say that no one does social commedy, family life or intense romance as well as she.
She is, to me (early death, and glorious carreer left in the middle aside) the modern Jane Austen, no doubt about it. Her novels aren't chick-lit, they're not romances, they're not comedies. They are literature. I particularly enjoyed how she uses themes and tropes from Jane Austen's books, but twists them around to fit completely original plots and characters.
The Nanny, for instance, is not a retelling, but it has SO many beloved aspects of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility and even Mansfield Park a little bit. It's the best thing that's happened to me since I discovered Austen in my early teens, and now that I'm slowly making my way around her books (much like I did with Jane's back then) I know that they'll be all read soon, and I won't know what to do with myself.

Reread them, I guess.

Melissa Jane Nathan (13 June 1968 – 7 April 2006) was a journalist and UK author of popular "chick lit" novels in the early 2000s.
When working on Persuading Annie (2001), Nathan was diagnosed with breast cancer. She refused to let the illness dominate her life, and - in public anyway - was unfailingly positive. She had no time for most journalism written by cancer sufferers: "self-indulgent dirges without a helpline in sight", as she described them; she tried to joke about cancer's unoriginality in her Jewish Chronicle column and then added:
That was what you call laughing in adversity. It's what makes people smile mistily at me, as if I'm fading in front of their very eyes while telling knock-knock jokes. What they don't know is that I have daydreams about being the oldest person at their funeral.
Ironically, the characters in Nathan's first book, 'Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field', were starring in a play version of Pride & Prejudice that benefitted breast cancer research. The book was written prior to Nathan knowing about her own future diagnosis with the disease.
She died aged 37 from breast cancer in April 2006. She is survived by her husband, Andrew Saffron, and their son, Sam.
Her final novel, The Learning Curve, was published posthumously in August 2006. A writing award has been established to recognize quality comedy romance writers in her honor.
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