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Daisy, an ex-model and sometime actress, now stays at home in her beautiful house in the country, whilst her husband makes large amounts of money to fund their very comfortable life-style; in addition to the family home in the country, they have a London house, several cars (some for the country, others for the city); Daisy has a cook, a housekeeper, a gardener and now she needs to hire a new nanny for her four-year-old son. Enter Margaret Pride, with her excellent references, her sensible clothes and her abhorrence of stimulants: no coffee, tea or alcohol will ever pass Margaret's lips, or so she says. When Daisy asks Margaret if she has any boyfriends, Margaret replies that she is engaged - in such a tone that it makes Daisy think of the lock on an old-fashioned lavatory. On the face of it, Margaret appears to be the perfect person for the job: she is sensible, efficient and willing to work hard and Daisy congratulates herself on finding such a wonderful nanny.
However, as time passes, Daisy starts to realize that Margaret is not all that she first appeared and that first impressions can be rather deceptive. She begins to notice distinct oddities in Margaret's behaviour and soon, the rather plain and dowdy mother's help, starts to take much more care of her appearance. And then Daisy's quiet, little nanny begins to cause a few ripples throughout the entire household.
This slim novel is a well-constructed and somewhat unsettling tale of domestic life amongst the chattering classes. Candia McWilliam is an original and elegant writer who writes using a spare, sophisticated and cool prose that she can easily adapt to a more flamboyant style when needed. However, much as I admired the author's writing, I could find nothing to admire in her character, Daisy, who is so removed from real life with her fully-staffed house and nothing to do all day, that it is difficult to empathize with her situation or to be really concerned about what happens to her - especially when she has staff to cook, clean and garden for her, but can't find the time or the inclination to look after her own small son. However, that said 'A Little Stranger' does make for an entertaining, if unsettling read and there is much to admire in the originality and the talent of McWilliam's writing.