When I was a mother with three children under the age of four and a husband who worked evenings and weekends, I would have been grateful for any help I could get. And if we’d had two pennies to rub together I might have considered an au pair. However, after reading Janey Fraser’s second novel The Au Pair, I am kind of glad we were poor. This novel is a reminder that it is never easy to invite an unknown employee into one’s home, especially a homesick young person with little or no English. Why would you willingly add a teenager to your family and pay them for the privilege? I’m sure there are stories of lovely au pairs who have helped out families and been like older siblings to their host children, but what about all those horror stories we hear…?
Janey Fraser explores the complex family dynamics that come from needing an au pair and the complications when one is brought into the fray. And although there are some fun moments springing from the shenanigans of some of these young girls, she also exposes how vulnerable they are. They are staying with an English family who may have unrealistic demands on them. This may be their first time away from home. There are language barriers. Cultural clashes. Boys, men, sex. What Fraser shows is it cuts both ways. Both sides are taking a risk when they agree to this employment contract.
Fraser writes with warmth and wit and her story romps alongs. She has a whole cast of colourful characters from Marie-France who is searching for her father, to widower Matthew who is struggling to bring up his young daughter who does everything to scupper the au pairs’ chances of settling in. There are also moments of tension and emotion thrown up by the chaos of family life and darker tragedy lurking…
Janey Fraser is the pen name of journalist Jane Bidder and she has also written best-selling novels under the name of Sophie King. She writes about family life and relationships and so I particularly enjoyed this novel as that is what I write about and what I have a life-long interest in.
Now, I must read The Playgroup, Fraser’s first novel of ‘Mum Lit’. In a previous life I taught early years…
You can follow her on Twitter @janey_fraser
And on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/janeyfraserauthor