Updated on May 19, 2015
10. ‘Love, Nina’ by Nina Stibbe
1980s London. A young woman called Nina becomes a nanny to two boys: the sons of London Review of Books editor, Mary-Kay Wilmers. Nina moves in with the family and documents their lives through letters home to her sister, Vic. The letters in Love, Nina cover five years, including Nina’s time as a nanny and her visits with the Wilmers after she leaves to pursue a course at university.
Of course, it’s the people that really make this book. There isn’t a nicely tied up plot as such – it’s more a collection of humorous anecdotes – but it’s the interactions and exchanges that really capture the attention, and as you become more familiar with the people, you start to feel a little like a member of the family yourself.
Famous literary figures abound in Love, Nina, including theatre director Jonathan Miller, novelist Michael Frayn, and the ever-present Alan Bennett who’s always coming round for tea. The two boys – Will and Sam, chalk and cheese – are amongst the most hilarious characters, as they fight over which football team to support and develop a secret code for laughing at their guests. Nina herself is funny and frank as she fills her sister in on other people’s eccentricities and consistently dodges doing the housework.
I found myself tearing through this book in no time at all. Without a doubt it’s a page-turner (the letters are short and you keep telling yourself, ‘Just one more!’) and it’s easy to get lost in the very appealing world of 1980s literary London, and this hugely entertaining family. It won’t take you long to read this book but you’ll wish it lasted longer.
If you liked my review, why not read the book and let me know what you think?