The Diary of an American Au Pair: A Novel (Paperback)
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After losing her advertising job in San Francisco and canceling her wedding (though not her engagement) an unencumbered Melissa, who harbors grand illusions about life in England, heads off to a new job as au pair to the family of a Member of Parliament. But the minorly aristocratic Haig-Ereildouns’ household falls far short of Melissa’s imaginings. Mrs. Haig-Ereildoun refers to Melissa as "her American girl" with a mixture of pride and contempt, expects her to share the children’s bathwater and, most importantly, entreats Melissa to " try to speak as we do." Heaven forbid the children pick up an American accent!
But then there is Nanny, the gloriously eccentric octogenarian who raised Mrs. H-E, who offers comfort, and much comic relief; nine-year-old Trevor, Melissa’s charge, whose wisdom and companionship redeem many a lonely day; and her budding friendship with a mysterious Englishman who is miles from her fiancé in every way. Melissa converses with Scotish fishermen, breakfasts with a French Minister of Culture, frequents island castles and sixteenth century manor houses, all the while straddling her ill-defined role (somewhere between houseguest and servant) with humor and grace. Melissa’s immersion in this unforgettable world teaches her more than she could possibly have imagined not only about the culture she has come to inhabit but, most importantly, about herself.
About the Author
Marjorie Leet Ford is a broadcaster and writer living in San Francisco. She conceived the long-running National Public Radio series Tell Me a Story, traveling around the world to record great writers, including John Updike, Eudora Welty, Jamaica Kincaid, Raymond Carver, Roald Dahl, reading their short stories. She was also once herself an au pair in Britain.
“Beguiling. . .wryly details the great divide between Brits and Americans. . .a sweet charmer.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Brings to life a charming character suffering from culture shock.”–NY Daily News
“Her eye is as deadly as her nature is forbearing; her dissection of the goings on in those cold castles and manors is so funny you can't help but wonder if the real-life people will dare read it, and we as readers are just lucky the put-upon au pair girl didn't walk out.”—Diane Johnson
“Majorie Leet Ford had written a touching, gentle account of life amongst those peculiar people who seem to flourish in Britain’s unlikely corners. This is a refreshing work, rich in the sort of social observation which lifts a book from the realm of light fiction into something much more satisfying.”—Alexander McCall Smith
“What a pleasure to discover these charmingly complex characters--a displaced American braving the chill of the British Isles and a glacially inconsiderate employer/mom who could have sprung from Dickens. Marjorie Leet Ford's novel is rich, sweet, funny, intelligent, and utterly satisfying.” —Elinor Lipman
“A romantic comedy with a biting literary edge”–Books Magazine, London
“In the most charming, gleeful way, a work of comparative anthropology.”–The Observer, London
“A character we’re prepared to stick with.”–The Times, London
“[W]ell written, insightful and amusing. . .definitely deserves a place in your holiday bag. (4 stars)”–Heat magazine, London
“The reader chuckles knowingly as Melissa struggles with the idiosyncracies of British life.”–The Guardian, London
“More than just another romantic comedy, this is the story of a sassy American who cancels her wedding to the safest man ever, in favour of heading for the UK to work as an au pair–a move she soon begins to regret.”–OK Magazine, UK
“This utterly delightful first-person account of American au-pair Melissa’s time spent amongst the aristocracy has the charm of a latter-day ‘Love in a Cold Climate’. . .with gentle wit and acute perception. . .Melissa recounts the everyday eccentricities of an upper-class family whilst weaving the story of her own romances: with England, with food and, particularly, with an Englishman.”–Hello, London