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.
onlinebuyer in the City
Applause! Applause! Applause! Absolutely brilliant! I am amazed at the narrative quality of these letters, considering that they were written when Nina Stibbe was still very young! These are the work of a born writer, someone who has a brilliant sense of character construction, story manipulation and scene staging… Fantastic.
The way in which Nina describes her London life as a bay-sitter and undergraduate (i.e., her coming of age story at the right place surrounded by just the right people) in her correspondence with her sister is engaging, hilarious, clever, astonishingly original.
I'm usually against writers (yes, including poets) reading their own material: but this is a fortunate exception. This is due to the nature of an epistolary memoir: I believe that only the actual author of those letters(reproduced without any contextual addition) knows the intention or spirit with which each was written, and therefore only the writer behind the correspondence can correctly render the emotions the girl was trying to communicate (often through irony) to her sister. I think that an actor/narrator might have easily misinterpreted many passages (mistaking irony for brattishness, or vice versa, for example), because it is hard to guess the emotional context of each missive when this context is not explicitly provided by the text (unlike conventional novels and memoirs). For this reason, I suspect, this book is particularly effective in its audible version, and I would probably appreciate it less in its print edition… Although I am going to try it too.
I would highly recommend this audiobook to everyone I know.
"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.
"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.
"Didn't want it to end!!"
Yes, definitely!! It was so funny.
Not really applicable as it was letters...so herself I guess.
Sweet, warm and very funny
Please don't be put off by my review. This really is a wonderful book!
"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.
"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.
"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!
"A female Adrian Mole but real"
This is sweet, warm, and very very funny. This is about Nina's job as a nanny in London in the early 80's and living on a street where all the houses appear to be occupied by an intellectual celebrity.
Nina describes a household where the extraordinary is turned into the ordinary and everbody's viewpoint is ruminated over with hilarious results. It is wonderful to hear about famous highbrow people agonising over noisy fridges, turkey burgers and unreturned saws. Nina doesn't appear to be troubled by hard work but instead seems to adopted into the family as a sort of eccentric and slightly churlish big sister.
I should hate Nina for landing what must have been the best job in the UK while I was doing something much more mundane in another part of London, But the truth is, she is impossible not to love and she did us a great service by recording it all in these marvellous letters to her sister.
"A Great Fun Read that Brought Back my own Memories"
Yes. It was a really well written account of her time on London at a similar time to I was living there. Lots of her experiences resonated. It was great too to read a book about people just living their own, average, mildly dysfunctional, but mostly happy lives.
The humour and wit, much of which was very subtle.
"A comic joy"
I loved the book and wanted to hear Nina reading it. I've read it twice and listened to it three times. Her wide eyed innocence on arriving in 1980s London is touching and funny. Always funny, the more so for being true. This reading is a true gem.
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