Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Book Review: Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe

Boy did I get this book at just the right time! I was worrying about getting into a reading funk, I was stressed and needed a break from much heavier fare for book clubs, and I wanted to read something just fun and funny. Then this caught my eye, which had only arrived about a week earlier. It's a memoir (love!) set in the 1980s (love!) with a 5-page love letter at the beginning from Nick Hornby about how awesome the book is (love!). How could it go wrong? And it didn't.

Nina moves to London in 1980 as an 18-year-old to become a nanny for MK's two sons. MK is the editor for the London Review of Books. Her ex-husband is a famous director. The across-the-street neighbor who is always mooching dinners off of them is a famous novelist. Not that any of this is name-dropped because young Nina doesn't really know who these people are in the literary world and when discussing how bad the dinner was that she made, it really doesn't matter how famous a novelist the dinner critic might be, it's still annoying. The kids are hilarious, Sam and Will. Sam has some health issues but they're not really a big concern in everyday life.

The entire book is a series of letters written to Nina's sister (and no, you don't get the responses. It's funny sometimes because there will be a line addressing something in the sister's letter, and it even occasionally sounds juicy, but you never get more than the tease. But it's fine because it's not the story of sisters, it's the story of Nina and this family.) Eventually Nina quits nannying and starts university, however a series of subsequent nannies just don't work out and she often finds herself back at MK's, sometimes just for dinner and to hang out, and other times to cover for someone and help out. Frequently the scenes are written like a play dialogue, and they are so funny I was reading them out loud as well as laughing out loud at them. The kids' language and behavior is obviously very true-to-life as that is how kids that age act. Nina herself is funny as she handles emergencies without getting upset, but also doesn't get upset in situation she should, and they all over-analyze things that often don't stand up to scrutiny, particularly Nina's bad cooking. The timeliness also was funny at times, such as when they were trying out this new board game called Trivial Pursuit.

Love, Nina was a wonderful story of a very young adult starting to find her way in the world. It's an honest look at her relationship with a loving family and a funny take on the trial and tribulations of a 20-something in 1980s London. I loved it and laughed throughout, but it isn't a trivial book. It's a book about everyday life, and the joy that simple daily living can bring.

I received this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

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