In the 1980s, Nina Stibbe wrote letters home to her sister in Leicester describing her trials and triumphs as a nanny to a London family.
There’s a cat nobody likes, a visiting dog called Ted Hughes (Ted for short) and suppertime visits from a local playwright. Not to mention the two boys, their favourite football teams, and rude words, a very broad-minded mother and assorted nice chairs.
From the mystery of the unpaid milk bill and the avoidance of nuclear war to mealtime discussions on pie filler, the greats of English literature, swearing in German and sexually transmitted diseases, Love, Nina is a wonderful celebration of bad food, good company and the relative merits of Thomas Hardy and Enid Blyton.
At the age of 20, Nina Stibbe moved from Leicestershire to London to become a nanny. Later she studied at Thames Polytechnic and worked in publishing. She now lives in Cornwall with her partner and children.
©2013 Nina Stibbe (P)2013 Penguin Books Limited
“I adored this book, and I could quote from it forever. It’s real, odd, life-affirming, sharp, loving, and contains more than one reference to Arsenal FC” (Nick Hornby, The Believer)
"Adrian Mole meets Mary Poppins mashed up in literary north London... Enormous fun” (Bookseller)
“What a beady eye she has for domestic life, and how deliciously fresh and funny she is” (Deborah Moggach, author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)
“Despatches from Family Life is the laugh-out-loud story of the trials and tribulations of a very particular family. Breezy, sophisticated, hilarious, rude and aching with sweetness; Love, Nina might be the most charming book I’ve ever read” (Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette)
“Nina Stibbe is the funniest new writer to arrive in years. Love, Nina is her first book - a memoir so warm, so witty and so wise, it’s like finding the friend you always deserved” (Andrew O, Hagan)
Anglophile. Prefer only British fiction and mysteries. Good translations of Italian, too.
I have already told my friends about this book - and even Twitter. It ws witty, charming and hilarious. I wish it had been longer.
A grown-up female Adrian Mole, perhaps. Or maybe early Nick Hornby.`
Nina Stibbe read her book and she was excellent. One knew where the emphasis was meant to be. Her sense of timing was superb. I felt as if I were in the same room as Nina.
I do not compare novels to films and do not watch Hollywood films.
The pacing, brevity of the sentences, incredible detail and humour made this book one I will most definitely listen to again. I couldn't get enough. I loved the literary scene and references to literature. Rare these days, but most welcome.
"A heartwarming and hilarious listen"
This is one of those books that I did not want to end. I want to buy it for all of my friends and would happily listen to it all over again. I feel bereft now I no longer have Nina Stibbe and the cast of characters from Gloucester Crescent in my life. These letters written to her sister Vic over a 5 year period in the 1980s are written and narrated in a very understated but incredibly heartwarming and funny style. Nina writes perfectly about the minutiae of daily domestic life and portrays the characters who live on or pass through Gloucester Crescent in a warm, funny, but never unkind way. I felt as though I were listening to letters from a friend. I loved the literary references which again, were so understated and Nina never becomes starstruck by any of the famous people she meets from the arts and literary world.
An absolute joy!
"Very funny and easy to dip in and out of"
That it's true! Well, I hope it is although I guess the author may have polished her letters a little bit. The book is a series of letters written by a nanny to her sister.
What fascinated me was how well Nina integrated into the family she was working for, as well as their friends and neighbours. She cared so well for the boys she was looking after and must have been great fun for them, more like an older sister. I was impressed how she wasn't deferential to Mary Kay etc. and I think it was because of this that she was almost perfect for their family whereas another family probably wouldn't have got on with her at all.
I particularly liked how she said she didn't worry about Sam's medical condition because his mother could do the worrying so she didn't have to, yet she was still closely monitoring his eyes when she wasn't putting him in skips, pushing him into the swimming pool etc. She just accepted the family as they were which was perfect. Some of her cooking stories made me laugh a lot, I wouldn't have fancied having to eat them.
I can't think of anything I've ever read like it.
calm amused real
No but I don't think that's a criticism. I didn't want it to stop so almost dragged it out so I had snippets to look forward to.
I have the paper copy of this book which I'd already read but I was intrigued to hear the audio version because it's read by the author.
"Gorgeous, witty, warm book (and author/narrator)"
Gorgeous, witty, warm. HILARIOUS, actually.
The book is lots of little incidences; funny, dry, bittersweet, ironic, presented as letters to the author's sister, so it's hard to chose one from the hundreds of lovely, chuckley, sniggery anecdotes. One of my favourite recurring episodes though is when Nina describes goings on at Thames Polytechnic to Mary-Kay, the mother of the family she is a nanny for, and Mary-Kay's reactions. Always a mixture in varying proportions of the shocking, hilarious and banal - and Mary-Kay's responses are glorious. Because the stories take the form of letters to NS's sister, her tone is so personal, candid and familiar that I feel like I was sitting at the table with them for years myself.
Anything where she describes what she cooks for the family she works for, the conspiratorial tone is heightened even more here and her role at that time (and how she copes with it) are in sharp relief: caring, naive, clever, inventive.
When Mary-Kay offers for Nina to move back into No. 55, and Nina accepts - it lasted all of 30 seconds within the actual audiobook, but it forms a tiny explosion of joy and acceptance so much so that you realise the author's relationship with Mary-Kay before this point was always leading up to this. Such a British little blip of poignancy and warm-and-fuzziness.
Definitely, definitely, buy and listen to this, as your very next audiobook. Nina Stibbe is a tremendous author and narrator, and this is one of those books that is so hilarious and brilliant that afterwards you'll know it will be difficult to top it, and your next listen could only hope to be a disappointment in comparison. YOU. WILL. LOVE. THIS. BOOK. I promise.
"Haven't laughed so much for years..."
I loved this book. Nina's innocence and lack of any pretension in the auspicious literary company in which she daily finds herself makes for a beautifully dry, hilarious style. Listened to it again straight away. Very highly recommended.
"Utter brilliant, so candid and so funny."
The characters and stories are beautifully drawn in this series of letters from Nina to Vic, her sister about her life as a nanny and student in London. Just about the normal matters of day to day life but written with such lightness of touch and humour. A sheer joy that had me gasping in amazement at its candour and laughing out loud over and over again.
"Perfect for late night reading"
I found this book by chance when excerpts were read over Christmas on Radio 4. The unabridged version is all the better for being narrated by Nina herself. It was enjoyable to be immersed in this lovely family's day to day living via Nina's witty commentary. If you are feeling tired at night and just want something light-hearted to listen to then this is the book is a pleasure. The family are all brought to life alongside memories of life during the 80's. I'm looking forward to Nina's next book - hurry up please!
"Couldn't stick it out"
I prefer a more exciting story line
Too quick between letters, need more time to establish who the characters are
Salivary voice, once you notice you can't stop hearing it, completely put me off
"Observant charm-filled letters"
I have many audiobooks and this one will immediately join my top 5 favourites.
It's impossible to pick out just one memorable moment - I felt as though I was in the room with Nina, MK, S&W, AB and Jack AKA Lucas. I was an au pair in France many decades ago and this recounting of life lived within another family rang so many bells.
It's great to hear the author's voice reading her/his writings. In this audio recording there are only the rhythms and nuanced phrasings by Nina herself. Refreshing and immediate.
The idea of converting this wonderful epistolary work into a film is impossible for this particular reader/listener even to consider.
Highly recommended. A wonderful book.
Nina Stibbe is delightful as the reader – adding in great humour and comic timing and impersonations of the characters of her life in the 80s. An incredibly warm and funny set of diaries, plus a subtle education in English literature in parallel. The boys Nina looks after have huge personalities as do their mum and the various cameo characters and it comes to life brilliantly in the audio version.
"Alan Bennett influence"
I loved this memoir. It has no pretentions to grandeur but excels as a tale of an ordinary girl in a extraordinary world. Told through letters to her sister, Nina leaves a Midlands town to work as a nanny for one of London's literary glitterati. Her complete indifference to the intellectual stars who cross her path is very funny and refreshing. She is completely unimpressed by Alan Bennett, finding his constant presence at the dinner table a nuisance. I'm impressed that although 30 years have passed, the author reading her own work still sounds about 20 years old.
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