LOVE, NINA : DESPATCHES FROM FAMILY LIFE
BY NINA STIBBE
In a London bookshop I challenged my husband to find a book he thought I’d like. Minutes later he returned with “Love, Nina.” The cover art included a tube of Toffos, a strip tease pen and glowing praise from one my favourite authors, Nick Hornby. He knows me so well – I was sold! Always judge a book by its cover.
In 1982 Nina Stibbe, aged 20, moves from Leicester to London to work as a nanny for a brilliantly eccentric family with famous connections. She could not cook and had no idea how to look after children, or who the strange guests that called round were. “Love, Nina” is the collection of letters she wrote home to her sister Victoria hilariously describing her new domestic life. From turkey mince to Geoffrey Chaucer, swearing in German to Trevor Brooking, every letter is crammed with batty anecdotes from 55 Gloucester Crescent.
Nina obviously adored her employer Mary-Kay Wilmers (Deputy Editor of the London Review of Books) and her two children Sam, 10, and Will, 9. There was also the hated cat Lucas, competing nannies in the Primrose Hill area, literary students and Alan Bennett – a neighbour who appeared at supper times and whose discussions across the dinner table with the kids are absolutely priceless – as is his on-going critique of Nina’s cooking.
This cast of (real-life) characters is rich and Nina has a turn of phrase and writes with a tone that is nothing short of comic genius. Every page is an absolute hoot and I read and re-read every letter in a bubble of sheer escapism and joy. The many 1980s references throughout the book also filled me with a sunny, happy nostalgia. As Nick Hornby said; “I adored this books and could quote from it forever.”
So could I but I won’t here. You need to buy this, read it and laugh yourself silly or ROFL as the kids say. One of the funniest books I’ve ever read.
SOUTHSEA BOOKWORM RATING: 9.5/10
Notes on the author: Nina Stibbe
Studied at Thames Polytechnic and worked in publishing
- Now lives in Cornwall with her family
- Look out for her next book – a novel called Man at the Helm released in August 2014