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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dear Nina . . .
This is fresh and fun, and very much in the rhythm of "Dear Lupin", with the whole book comprising one half of a postal correspondence from years ago. In Dear Lupin, that correspondence was between errant son and forgiving father - here it's sister-in-the-sticks and sister-in the-bright-lights-of-literati-London. Our writer and heroine, Nina ("Stibbe")...
Published 2 months ago by Roger Risborough

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Editing required
100 pages too long, there is only so much of the life of the inhabitants of NW3 you can take before tou want to shoot them.
Published 4 months ago by R J Fairweather


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dear Nina . . ., 11 Jun 2014
This is fresh and fun, and very much in the rhythm of "Dear Lupin", with the whole book comprising one half of a postal correspondence from years ago. In Dear Lupin, that correspondence was between errant son and forgiving father - here it's sister-in-the-sticks and sister-in the-bright-lights-of-literati-London. Our writer and heroine, Nina ("Stibbe") escapes small-town Lincolnshire to be billeted as a nanny in Gloucester Terrace in the eighties. Her employer is the editor of the London Review of Books, and immediate neighbours include Alan Bennett, Claire Tomalin and Michael Frayn. So there's name dropping on every page, along with cultural reminders from down the years (remember when people didn't know whether to keep balsamic vinegar in the bathroom or the kitchen?). There's a small repertory cast of characters that pop-up in Nina's daily life and hence are mentioned/critiqued in her letters to her sister. Everyone will have their own favourites - mine was fellow student Stella, she of the failed hair-dye and the postman-boyfriend who seemed to have stopped delivering. This is the tale of the nanny and childhood that none of us ever had (apart from the two quick-witted Frears boys) - and after reading this, it feels like we've all missed out.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warm, uplifting, achingly hilarious, 19 Nov 2013
I loved this book. A good friend recommended it to me. I knew very little about it, but I trusted my friend's good taste. Warm, funny, uplifting, refreshing - Love, Nina was the book I savoured on returning home every day. Nina Stibbe's acute but uncomplicated views and observations of the extraordinary world in which she inhabits are life-affirming. So difficult to capture the humour, the delicious slices of family life and the nostalgic ache for the 1980s, a decade seemingly bereft of character, but so much part of this memoir. I hope Nina writes more. Her peculiar style of comedic timing and deadpan delivery is distinctive, and her voice rings loudly throughout the book. A true coming-of-age comedy. Brilliant. Now I'm going to ask for another recommendaton from my friend...
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Family Life in a Stack of Letters, 30 Nov 2013
By 
C. Bannister (Jersey, CI) - See all my reviews
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This book is entirely made up of the letters Nina wrote to her sister Victoria. Starting from when she took the job in the literary household of Mary-Kay Wilmers, as a nanny to her two sons, Sam and Will. The letters span five years up to the day Nina leaves Thames Poly, the move to London sparking the beginning of her academic career.

I found it hard to get to grips with this book at first, with no narrative and frequent initials for the characters in the letters it was a little hard to work out who was who but once that was sorted I became fascinated by the household. Mary-Kay has some wonderful one-liners, I got the impression of a woman who only says what she means and most of that is quite acerbic which I loved. The two boys being around 9 & 10 when the letters start also come across as intelligent and quick-witted boys and the conversations transcribed in the letters whilst sat around the table eating dinner made me smile time and again.

Nina is an adventurous cook, soliciting recipes from all sorts of sources, including the playwright neighbour Alan Bennett but always makes her own amendments. Once Nina starts at the Poly we have her thoughts on her fellow students as well as the books she is reading for her course.

All in all a different type of read, it is a little bizarre reading one side of a conversation although there is no doubt about the closeness of the two sisters. I found it was a great way of lifting my mood as I couldn't help the occasional chuckle at the antics of all the characters that made their way into Nina's letters.

I received a free copy of this book in return for my honest review.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Engaging, 22 Aug 2014
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
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In 1982, Nina Stibbe worked as a nanny for the two sons of Mary-Kay Wilmers, the editor of the London Review of Books, and she lived with the family in what sounds a lovely house at number 55 Gloucester Crescent, in north west London. Nina's responsibilities included: taking care of ten-year-old Sam, who had Riley-Day Syndrome (a condition which affects the nervous system) and his younger brother, nine-year-old Will; some of the cooking (the results of which were of varying success); and some of the housework (of which Nina managed to avoid almost entirely, resulting in Mary-Kay having to employ a 'proper' cleaner). This amusing and entertaining book is comprised of a collection of the letters Nina sent to her sister, Vic, about her life at Gloucester Crescent, where Mary-Kay's neighbours included: Alan Bennett, who regularly popped in for supper, sometimes bringing his own contributions; biographer Claire Tomalin and her partner, novelist and playwright, Michael Frayn; Jonathan Miller, the theatre and opera director (who Nina, on hearing people saying "Have you heard Jonathan's 'Rigoletto'?" mistakenly thought he must be an opera singer); and novelist Deborah Moggach, who lived across the street and who Nina was able to see tapping away writing her novels. When Nina arrived in London fresh from the Leicestershire countryside, she hadn't even heard of most of these people and certainly knew nothing about literary London. But she did get on well with the inhabitants of number 55 and she soon became practically a member of the family - when Nina stopped nannying the boys and moved out when she began studying for an English degree at Thames Polytechnic, she was a constant visitor to number 55 and, after a time, moved back in with Mary-Kay and the boys.

Through Nina's 'down-to-earth' letters to her sister, the reader learns about the everyday, and not so everyday events, that went on at Gloucester Crescent and we also become party to the conversations of this articulate group of people which took place around the kitchen table - Nina obviously chose the most entertaining to include in her letters, but even the more mundane aspects of family life at number 55 often seemed to develop into amusing situations and discussions:

Mary-Kay: People are only horrible if they're hungry or unhappy.
Will: That could be anyone.
MK: Yes.
Will: Everyone.
MK: Yes.
Will: At any time.
MK: Yes.
Sam: They just need a banana.
MK: Exactly.

And:

Alan Bennet (on Nina's stew that she cooked for hours)
AB: Very nice, but you don't really want tinned tomatoes in a beef stew.
Nina: It's a Hunter's Stew.
AB: You don't want tinned tomatoes in it, whoever's it is.

Wonderfully observed and deftly described, Nina Stibbe obviously has a very good eye and ear for comic details and for the absurdities of everyday life, making this an engaging, entertaining and, in places, a heartwarming read, ideal for those times when you want something undemanding and amusing. I notice the author has her first novel coming out very soon:Man at the Helm. I wonder how her comedic talents will transfer to fiction and although my 'to be read pile' is huge, I must admit to being very tempted to add Nina Stibbe's debut novel to that pile.

4 Stars.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars LOL funny, 17 Nov 2013
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This is such a lovely book. I can't recommend it highly enough.
What's it about? Well, in it Alan Bennett reads an extract from the author's unfinished semi autobiographical novel, which is apparently very similar in vein to her letters, and isn't sure himself.
"It's funny," he says, and adds "I'm not sure what it's about. A bunch of literary types doing laundry and making salad - or something."
The letters the author sent to her sister during her time as nanny for a literary north London family are indeed funny, hilarious in fact, and Alan Bennett, a neighbour, is one of the literary types making salads - or something.
The book and all the characters in it are a delight, and it's a real tonic for those times when life is wearying, you're a bit jaded or feeling cynical about stuff. Or any time at all really.
The author has a knack for recreating dialogue and then adding her own idiosyncratic take on the proceedings.
Here's an example:

Yesterday I cooked a stew (four hours - oven lowest). AB (Alan Bennett) came for supper.
AB: Very nice, but you don't really want tinned tomatoes in a beef stew.
Me: It's a Hunter's Stew
AB: You don't want tinned tomatoes in it, whoever's it is.
Who's more likely to know about beef stew - him (a bloke who can't be bothered to cook his own tea) or The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook?

Wonderful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A VIEW FROM THE FRIDGE !, 30 July 2014
By 
Em (ST NEOTS, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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A young provincial woman's clear-eyed view of life among the left-wing London literati of the 1980s, which shows that when you see the backsides of celebrities and not just their pubic personas they turn out to be mostly much like the rest of us, slovenly, confused, happy, miserable, argumentative, loving, bitchy, brainy, ignorant, even dull, the only difference between them and us being that they are more articulated and never stop talking and analysing which sometimes makes them seem hopelessly pretentious (which some of them clearly are)..They also swear a lot for the time and being as some of them were quite influential in the media this probably explains why 30 years on there is so much of it (and sex, violence etc) in plays, movies, even tv.
All in all, quite a useful piece of social observation albeit somewhat disillusioning. There are some touching moments and one or two funny ones too. One hopes the author has been able to put her experiences to good use in the intervening years, whether as a writer, say, or a mucho sympatico childminder.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amusing and Refreshing, 14 Feb 2014
By 
W. Tegner "Bill" (Cheshire UK) - See all my reviews
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I could identify with this book to a degree because I moved (back) to London in my mid-twenties over forty years ago, and spent a happy decade in an urban village, a Victorian suburb. I didn't mix in the same circles as the fortunate Nina Stibbe, but I found myself sitting next to Michael Frayn in a restaurant one evening and sold him a raffle ticket (in fact he bought the whole book). Also I found myself next to Colin Welland at a football match. Yes, London is an exciting place to live, and certainly this comes across in this book.

The Wilmers' household is, of course, a very unusual one, even by inner London standards, and the useful Who's Who at the start has many distinguished names. Having said that, there's a slight feeling of "Outnumbered", but only a superficial one.

We're told that Will goes to a "posh" school (ie an independent one), but we don't get the feel of any great pretensions (flash cars, boarding school, etc.). Indeed, many people might find the set-up a bit confusing: the people in it are comfortably off, well connected and highly cultivated, yet they don't vote Conservative, they're interested in sport (particularly football), enjoy snooker and pop music, and the book is mercifully free from silly hack phrases like "middle class". Most unEnglish. Most refreshing. No wonder Nick Hornby enjoyed it.

It must have been great for Nina Stibbe to be invited to join (and accepted in) such a "magic circle" and I'm grateful that Mary-Kay Wilmers agreed to let her share her experiences thirty years on.. One interesting facet, though, is that Nina Stibbe doesn't really set the scene, leaving us to do a bit of research on the characters and the set up generally. I enjoyed doing this, And certainly I enjoyed the book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Editing required, 26 April 2014
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100 pages too long, there is only so much of the life of the inhabitants of NW3 you can take before tou want to shoot them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Yawn, 26 Aug 2014
By 
J. McDonnell "Make time to read" (Glos, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life (Paperback)
I can see why people find it funny, really I can, but it just didn't do it for me. I only got half way through before I thought enough is enough of reading tiresome anecdotes from someone I don't really care about talking about kids and people I don't really care about in that sickly and purposefully understated 'aren't we/our lives/the kids/our friends fascinating/hilarious/off the wall' kind of way - yawn.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I chose this for book club, 28 Jan 2014
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... and unfortunately it was rather fluffy. Had seen it mentioned several times in 'best read of the year' by authors and readers (Guardian?) but found it rather repetitive. Alan Bennet popping round all of the time was funny though
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Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life
Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life by Nina Stibbe (Paperback - 27 Feb 2014)
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