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Review: Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe

I’m anticipating that my new style posts will be shorter and more frequent.  Here goes!!

My sister sent me this book for my birthday.  I’d never heard of it – it is the collated letters home of Nina Stibbe, Mary-Kay Wilmers’ nanny during the early eighties.  Mary-Kay Wilmers is the editor of the London Review of Books, ex-wife of film director Stephen Frears.  Alan Bennett is a family friend and comes over for dinner.  Claire Tomalin’s son Tom comes round to play with M-K’s children.  So far, potentially, so North London ick.

Except it’s not like that at all.  I’ve become so used to filletting books as I read them, looking for sympathy with the characters, points of tension, suspense, what does this say about society etc etc.  It’s been such a long time since I read a book like a child reads a book, because the characters are fascinating and you want to be with them, and live in a life where they are real people.

All the characters are wonderfully sympathetic, and it’s so funny!

Laugh out loud moments included:

[The family have just had an intercom installed.]

MK: Can we find out who it is before we buzz them in.

Sam (son): Why?

MK: Because it’s the sensible way to do it.

Will (other son): It could be a murderer.

Sam: Or Frank Bough.

Also:

[Nina gets an interview at Thames Polytechnic to do English.]

“JW (admissions interviewer) said it’s not all about the grade, but about you (me), and some of the best students ever come from non-traditional backgrounds.  They get all sorts of losers there by the sound of it.  Mature students etc.”

For people like me, who just don’t get on with/have anything in common with their family, the portrait of this house full of friends and family who love, tease and understand each other, is just soooo beguiling.  It also reminded me of that relaxed, musing way of discovering the world that you have when you are young.  I lapped up every single word of this.

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7 Comments

    • I wanted to reproduce the Alan Bennett fridge scene here, but it wasn’t so funny taken out of context. Just the running joke about one of our best playwrights also happening to be an expert amateur diagnoser of domestic appliance faults.

  1. I am so reassured by your review, and by Annabel’s (which I read a little while back). I did worry it was a bit ick-making, but looking forward to it now I know it’s so good. I am a complete sucker for any book that can make me laugh!

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