Do Try to Speak as We Do: The Diary of an American Au Pair

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9780312268664: Do Try to Speak as We Do: The Diary of an American Au Pair
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It seems like the perfect job: an upper middle class English family desperately needs a nanny. The father is an aspiring novelist, the children are well-heeled, and the mother's accent radiates with charm over the transatlantic phone. So young Melissa jumps at the chance to travel overseas and live an aristocratic life of tea and crumpets. But her romantic notions are shattered when she becomes an unwitting target of the family's genteel snobbery, icy wrath, and ridiculous misunderstandings. Melissa's letters home cast a sharp eye and quick wit on the family's bizarre cast of friends and relatives, but she eventually learns that a little bit of understanding and tolerance can go a long way - and can even teach her more about herself.

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From Publishers Weekly:

Reading Ford's first foray into fiction feels like snooping through a friend's diary, alternately entertaining and ordinary. Set in London and in the coastal Scottish Hebrides, this is a classic fish-out-of-water tale a character is placed in unfamiliar surroundings and left to fend for herself. Suddenly losing her job because of corporate downsizing and deciding as well to postpone her wedding to overprotective artist Tedward, 20-something San Franciscan Melissa optimistically accepts a position as an au pair to an upper-middle-class English family, the Haig-Ereildouns. Mr. H-E is a member of Parliament, and Melissa envisions her six-month stay in the U.K. as a cross between a Mary Poppins adventure and a scene out of a Merchant-Ivory costume drama. Instead, she is greeted by three young terrors and assigned arduous chores s in a London flat with no central heating and prewar plumbing. Mrs. H-E is impossible to please, constantly criticizing Melissa's American English, and she secretly seduces Melissa's friend Simon. Treated as an outcast by the snobbish adults, Melissa is befriended by the family servants, like gossipy English spinster Nanny, and by Trevor, the H-E's nine-year-old son, who is obsessed with death. After an actual death occurs, Melissa acknowledges the personal problems that were the real reasons for her flight from America. Sumptuous details of upper-crust dinner banquets are perhaps the most tantalizing attribute of a bland book that fails to summon the verve that could truly animate the comical aspects of the cultural divide between the U.S. and England.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal:

Reeling from a recent layoff and the possibly permanent postponement of marriage to her longtime love, Melissa takes a position as an au pair to an upper-middle-class English family. It seems like the perfect job. The children are well behaved, the wife sounds charming over the phone, and the husband is a member of Parliament. Melissa's visions of tea, lawn tennis, and elegant parties quickly dissolve upon her arrival in England, when she is handed the tasks of a scullery servant, impossible working hours, children forever on the brink of disaster, and a constant whirlwind of packing and unpacking as the family bounces between their home in London and their crumbling estate in rural Scotland. A faux pas lurks at every turn as Melissa strives to hone her British speech and manners and to overcome the polite but frigid anti-Americanism of the family's friends and relations. In addition to her other tasks, she must teach three-year-old Claire, who is deaf, to speak the Queen's English. Melissa describes all these trials and tribulations with wit and charm in her letters home. This first novel by the author of Cactus: A Prickly Portrait of a Desert Eccentric is delightful indeed; fans of Bridget Jones and the current spate of British TV sitcoms will love it. Highly recommended.DSusan Clifford Braun, Aerospace Corp., El Segundo, CA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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