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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warm, uplifting, achingly hilarious
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...
Published 8 months ago by deepversedandshallow

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a demanding read!
....but nor does the book demand to be read. There are occasional deadpan gems which really are 'laugh out loud' moments, but the constant references to people by initials or nicknames gets irritating very quickly. Some of these are listed at the front (but not alphabetically - which would have helped); the others you have to assume aren't important enough to merit a...
Published 6 months ago by MIddlestitch


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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warm, uplifting, achingly hilarious, 19 Nov 2013
This review is from: Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life (Hardcover)
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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14 of 16 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
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life (Hardcover)
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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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 review is from: Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life (Hardcover)
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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2 of 2 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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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
(REAL NAME)   
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a demanding read!, 7 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life (Hardcover)
....but nor does the book demand to be read. There are occasional deadpan gems which really are 'laugh out loud' moments, but the constant references to people by initials or nicknames gets irritating very quickly. Some of these are listed at the front (but not alphabetically - which would have helped); the others you have to assume aren't important enough to merit a mention.

Nina Stibbe's poetry writing is so bad it's embarrassing, so I guess she deserves credit for being willing to expose her shortcomings to an unsuspecting reader when she drops in her forays into verse (doggerel?). Constant use of four letter words (hers and just about everyone else) also gets tedious. Nothing trendy or funny about monotony.
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6 of 7 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
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely read, 27 Jan 2014
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Really enjoyable, fun, full of affection, honesty and wit. Lovely glimpse into an ordinary life told in an extraordinary way. You feel such warmth for the characters & feel like you know them through the level of detail given.
I loved this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining!, 16 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life (Hardcover)
This book seems to provoke extreme responses: with readers mostly loving it but occasionally some loving it not at all. So it seems that it depends on your personal taste and perhaps your mood as you read it. Me: I loved it! I've bought copies for two people as presents and at least one of them really enjoyed it.

I chuckled a lot and even laughed out loud at the bit where Nina Stibbe adds `and groom the cat' to the end of a note that Claire Tomalin had written to her volunteer in which she had explained how long to cook, and at what temperature, the casserole she'd prepared for supper.

The dialogues between her two charges and the household and visitors are a delight and she is wonderfully observant about details that convey a lot of meaning.

Her descriptions of extremely well-known, sometimes highly distinguished, characters are all the more effective and compelling by her being so unimpressed by them, apparently thinking that Alan Bennett is a former Coronation Street actor. He comes across as beyond handy as a neighbour; bearer of rice puddings and fount of knowledge of the workings of fridges, washing machines and bikes (which, according to his own diary entries last year, is not the case) and even a willingness to challenge an intruder at night. She asks Jonathan Miller if he's a singer and she wilfully but amusingly misrepresents his attitude about lending his saw to Mary-Kay Wilmers, her employer.

Nina Stibbe's openness in describing her tendency to fib and pilfer stuff from her - apparently wonderful and tolerant -employer is appealing although Stibbe must have had many qualities that are not evident from these letters. What emerges from them is that she had unparalleled opportunities to develop her talents with this household; lucky, lucky her!
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Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life
Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life by Nina Stibbe (Hardcover - 7 Nov 2013)
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