Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Book review: Everything and Nothing

By Araminta Hall
Published by HarperPress

A family employs a live-in nanny to look after their two children and she turns out to be a bit of a psycho. Don’t you think that this plot might have been used just a little too often? I did. For this reason, I approached Everything and Nothing with caution.

The next thing I remember is a happy and satisfied smile on my lips as I finished the book not too long afterwards.

In Everything and Nothing, readers are thrown into the life of the Donaldsons at a difficult time. Ruth and Christian have two little children, a nanny who’s just left them and a career to think of. While they try (and don’t really succeed) to juggle family and work commitments, Aggie arrives. With impeccable references and full of enthusiasm, she moves in with the family and, little by little, she becomes indispensable to the smooth running of the household.

Smooth is, however, an adjective that can be only applied to what goes on on the surface. Deep down, the situation is more complicated than that. Ruth and Christian are both disappointed by their life. Ruth feels guilty that she’s not the perfect mother that she expected to be. Christian feels like Ruth has changed and that their life has turned out different to what they both imagined. Add the sudden appearance of Christian’s ex secretary and lover and you have all the ingredients for trouble.

It is not surprising that – amongst the kids’ tantrums and all the other obstacles that the couple keep finding in their way – they don’t realise that perfect Aggie is not so perfect. Readers will have known that there’s something wrong with her since the very first paragraph but it is only as you read that the little pieces of the puzzle come together.

So, yes, the plot is perhaps not the most original but the way that the characters grow before your eyes and the great insight into the workings of a modern family make this novel fresh and gripping.

Araminta Hall’s Everything and Nothing has been selected for Richard and Judy's autumn book club 2011 and it’s easy to see why.

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