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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Engaging
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...
Published 7 months ago by Susie B

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment
I looked forward to reading this book because I love diaries and letters but I'm sorry to say I was disappointed. To enjoy it you need to feel drawn in by the voice of the letters and I simply wasn't. I found their pert tone quite irritating and, as the book progressed, Nina's practical jokes and her subterfuges to cover up her mishaps just seemed increasingly tiresome...
Published 6 months ago by Processor


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Love, Nina...I wanted to.., 25 Oct. 2014
By 
Carole-anne Davies "sparkla" (Cardiff, Wales) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life (Hardcover)
I struggled to get through this book, but persevered partly to see if there was a shred of evidence to underpin the gushing reviews. The letters device quickly wears thin as does the extracted dialogue, which doesn't live up to the 'laugh out loud' funny claims. In almost 320 pages it barely reached a wry smile for me. The name dropping others have mentioned didn't bother so much as the lost opportunity to craft an intriguing picture of time and place in London literary life, and the formative first years of ventures away from home. Having just joined a new book club I find my first book is to be Stibbe's first novel, Man at the Helm. I'm 18 pages in and struggling for oxygen...give me strength.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful picture of family, (1982) in literary London., 7 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life (Hardcover)
I loved this book, after being sceptical about reading a series of letters, made into a book, however they told a wonderful story. Nina Stibbs', placement as a nanny, fresh and unsophisticated from Leicester, opens her, and the readers' eyes. I wanted to be in Mary-Kay's household, where all manner of writers,artists etc, just seemed to 'drop-in.' Alan Bennet is a regular, and we get a different view of him; he can make and mend things, as well as cook, write and act. The children, Will and Sam are amazing, and sophisticated beyond their years. Its in such a household that Nina develops an interest in study, and the second part of the book recounts her experiences at North London Poly.
I laughed out loud at some of the 'round the table' dialogue, and the many one-liners, by Mary-Kay, Alan Bennet, the boys and Nina. A great read. Sorry it ended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love Nina, 4 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life (Hardcover)
This is an entertaining, amusing read, giving an insight into the lives of a middle-class family in London in the 1980's. Nina works as a nanny for the ex-wife of Stephen Frears who has two boys, Sam and Will. Alan Bennet lives across the road and drops in regularly, giving his thoughtful and unfailingly amusing comments on whatever is going on at the time. The book takes the form of letters that Nina writes to her sister recounting the highlights of the day with her own often dry, pithy thoughts.
I think this book would appeal to most readers of either sex, as it cannot fail to raise a smile on virtually every page. Nina is refreshingly candid and often says what other people may agree with, but would not voice.
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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
4.0 out of 5 stars Light and amusing, 8 Aug. 2014
By 
E. A. Banks (Ipswich, Great Britain) - See all my reviews
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An amusing book in the form of a collection of letters written to the author's sister. The odd little asides from the children to whom Nina was a nanny are the funniest bits of this, mostly light hearted, account. These letters were written in the early 1980s when Nina Stibbe was very young, and this gives some of the letters an immature tone which I found mildly irritating, but overall the girly, gossipy style of them is rather endearing. I particularly like the style used to recount conversations, particularly the ones involving the children. Lovely little snippets of someone else's life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic funny look at family life, 4 April 2014
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First of all, lets address the cover, Toffo's do we remember them readers of a certain age, can you still get them?! Anyway I love the cover and any cover with food on it is going to go straight to the top of my reading pile.

The basis of the book is that Nina during the early 80's worked as a nanny for a family in London but they are not your ordinary suburban family, they are wonderfully unique! As this was not the age of email or texts she wrote letters home to her sister Victoria and those letters make up this book.

Nina has no nannying experience but settled straight away in to her new position with Mary-Kay Wilmers and her two boys, Sam (10) and Will (9).

Her letters home cover everyday life from how to cook turkey mince and Nina's interesting forays in to cooking, her meetings with fellow nanny's and neighbours which include the playwright Alan Bennett who seem to be round for Tea every night.

The boys Sam and Will are brilliant and I must Google them to see what they are like now, there is a particularly funny scene near the start of the book where they discuss the use of the word sonofabitch and things escalate but the way it seems to innocently come out of their mouths is just brilliant, my husband just sits and gives me dirty looks while I sit there laughing to myself.

Mary-Kay I believe I would be a little scared of, she seems very matter of fact and I think she might intimidate me but there is occasion when she seems really nice.

There is a whole cast of other characters and Nina has very helpfully put a list at the beginning of the book for reference and I admit to using it all the time whilst reading.

This book reminded me a little bit of an older version of Adrian Mole, it is in a way a coming of age book as it chronicles Nina's years in London.

To sum up I loved this book and I have been recommending it to my friends left right and centre, so pick it up and prepare to Love Nina!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Gritty and warm - and an illuminating coda, 28 Oct. 2014
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This book is laugh out loud funny with astringent undercurrents that are hinted but not laboured.

After reading this book I'd strongly recommend reading the Penguin Short, Being Sam Frears: A Life Less Ordinary, by Mary Mount, a cameo in later life of one of the boys Nina nannies for on her arrival in literary North London in the early 80s. Sam is now in his 40s. He has an extremely rare condition called familial dysautonomia, or Riley-Day syndrome - but refuses to be cowed by his condition. The life expectancy for most babies born with this condition is five years, his symptoms take up half a page but his stand out feature in addition to his ability to ascend a climbing wall is his overwhelming charm.

Both books are short and impressionistic chronicles, Mount's very short, more pamphlet than book. Mount's book is interspersed with comments from Sam's mother, Mary-Kay Wilmers, (the enigmatic 'MK' of Love, Nina) Stibbe's with familiar familial banalities from around the breakfast and tea table - but a tea table where Alan Bennett pops in to dispense advice on the Florida Salad as well as Stibbe's first literary efforts and Jonathan Miller's saw mysteriously disappears.

Stibbe's device of telling the story through letters overcomes concerns that, like rock and roll, if you can remember the 80s you clearly weren't there.

The results of both are illuminating and empathetic, gritty and warm.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More amusing than "laugh out loud", 29 May 2014
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Our Book Group picked this one from reviews that promised we would laugh out loud. It certainly provided us with a lot of discussion, partly about why none of us did laugh. Since we're all around retirement age we thought it might be an age thing. So I conducted an experiment and gave it to my thirty something daughter-in-law. She quite enjoyed it (still no belly laughs) and, surprisingly, so did my son. He hadn't LOL-ed either, but did keep quoting bits back to me that had amused him as retro memories of life in the eighties.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Funny and observant but raises many questions, 18 May 2014
Nina Stibbe presents herself as a blunt northerner turning a beady eye on her middle-class southern employer and kids. (Poor little mites! Never eaten Toffos?) I guess she kept a diary at the time, and that her sister kept her letters, but I am not convinced that these are those letters. There are some anachronisms. It's worth reading for the inside dope on rich Bohemia of the time - the funniest part is her employer's snobbery. She repeats many conversations that she probably recorded at the time. These are not as hilarious as she thinks they are, especially the "what kids say". Postscripts about her sister's attempts to drive fall flat too. Alan Bennett comes over as a kindly figure with a talent for bike maintenance. Once she does A Levels and gets to university she drops some very heavy hints about "autobiographical novels" and "metafiction". (In those days, you could catch up on A Levels and get a university place quite easily and cheaply - that's what I did - but information was hard to find (no Google). She was tipped off by a friend.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars By far the funniest book I've read all year, 14 Dec. 2013
By 
fiona g (lanarkshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life (Hardcover)
I loved every page of this book. Drew me right in from the first page - it's warm, hilarious and full of affection for the family Nina lives with. MK was my favourite - terse, eccentric and very very funny. The bit about her rustly coat had me in stitches ('She ripped a pocket with all the marching'). I read the last few pages at a snail's pace to delay finishing it. A joy!
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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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