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Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home Hardcover – April 22, 2014

125 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* With a who’s who at the beginning that ranges from film director Stephen Frears to Maxwell, the author’s “ex-pony,” you might guess this is not your typical memoir. Not only that, but it comprises the tuneful, descriptive letters Nina wrote in the 1980s, while she tried her hand at nannying in London, to her sister, Vic, who stayed basically at home, near Leicestershire, England. The nannied children were young Sam and Will Frears—their arty, daffy children’s conversations fill the pages—living with their sharp, blunt mother, Mary-Kay Wilmers, deputy editor of the London Review of Books. Nina herself, then just 20 and new to the task of being a nanny, was a lover of London and quite the observer, documenting for her sister back home the who, the when, and her full-blown, clever, open-eyed take on the what of life at the Wilmers-Frears. Stibbe notes that nannying is “not like a job really, just like living in someone else’s life,” but what a funny, artist-filled life she lived, and how well she watched and participated. This is an offbeat paean to families, real and cobbled-together, to sisters and siblings, and to communicating with love. It’s also a rare and wholly delectable epistolary slice of life. --Eloise Kinney


"I adored this book, and I could quote from it forever. It's real, odd, life-affirming, sharp, loving...and I can't remember the last time I laughed out loud so frequently while reading."―Nick Hornby, The Believer

"[Love, Nina is] observant, funny, terse, at times a bit rude. It affords a glimpse into a rarefied London social and literary milieu...These letters are winning from the start...we simply like being in Ms. Stibbe's company."―Dwight Garner, The New York Times

"I have never laughed so hard reading a book. Nina Stibbe's recollections of life as a London nanny are both hilarious and heartwarming."―J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Maine and The Engagements

"I must MOST EARNESTLY recommend Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe. It's the most piss-funny thing I've read all year. I can't remember a book since Adrian Mole that so brilliantly, drily nailed day-to-day life in BRILLIANT, faux-naive prose."―Caitlin Moran, author of How to Build a Girl

"Nina Stibbe is the funniest new writer to arrive in years. LOVE, NINA is a memoir so warm, so witty and so wise, it's like finding the friend you always deserved."―Andrew O'Hagan, author of Be Near Me and Missing

"What a funny, artist-filled life she lived, and how well she watched and participated. This is an offbeat paean to families, real and cobbled-together, to sisters and siblings, and to communicating with love. It's also a rare and delectable epistolary slice of life."―Booklist (starred review)

"I loved this book. What a beady eye she has for domestic life, and how deliciously fresh and funny she is - a real discovery."―Deborah Moggach, author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

"You'll find yourself laughing out loud but also touched by the book's depiction of family as it should be: people bound not just by blood but by shared affinities, humor and unfailing interest in hearing the answer to the question, 'How was your day?'"―People

"Enchanting . . . a glimpse into the domestic life of a fascinating family."―The Wall Street Journal

"An exquisitely written memoir--the funniest debut in years."
Caitlin Moran, Entertainment Weekly

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (April 22, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316243396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316243391
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #617,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kindles & Wine Book Blog on May 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition

This is a quirky and charming little book, composed entirely of Nina Stibbe's letters to her sister Victoria after she moved to London to be a nanny. Nina's letters aren't really like any letters I've read before, and they're very unlike letters I would write. Nina is hilarious and she has a keen ear for dialogue. She observes the most unusual things and manages to make the most mundane tasks funny (see excerpt below regarding laundering pillows). Throughout the book, she includes lots of little mini-dialogues between her and Mary-Kay (MK, her boss) and Sam and Will (her charges). For example:

MK: What are these?

Me: Pillows.

MK: Yes, but why have I got them? Where are my usual ones?

Me: Sam's probably got your usual ones.

MK: So what are these?

Me: I think they might be the ones I laundered.

MK: Laundered?

Me: Took to the launderette.

MK: Are they washable?

Me: Not as such, but it was kill or cure.

MK: It was kill.

To find that little vignette I literally just turned to a random page in the book. I find exchanges like this so charming because I would never think to write about a conversation like that in a letter, but it so perfectly illustrates the things that make up daily life. Her writing also made me really want to be a fly on the wall in that house so I could listen in on the razor sharp wit.

I should tell you that Mary-Kay is Mary-Kay Wilmers, who at that time was the editor of the London Review of Books. She is friends with several of the literary/cultural elite of London in the 1980s--Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller, Claire Tomalin--most of whom stop by the house regularly.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover
When Nina Stibbe applied for a job as nanny to a family in Bloomsbury, she was twenty years old, had never lived in London, and was unaware of the literary celebrities who would soon populate her world.

This was in the early 1980s and she was used to having long, detailed chats with her sister back home every night after work. Since her sister didn't have convenient access to a phone, Nina wrote her frequent letters, telling her about the family she was living with, the people who visited, tidbits about her new London neighborhood.

Her sister found the letters recently and as unlikely as it all seems, now they're a book. The book is in two parts, the first part is Nina's letters to sister Victoria as she settles in with the Mary Kay and her sons Sam and Will, ages nine and ten. Mary Kay Wilmers is an editor (and founder) at The London Review of Books. Her ex-husband and the father of the boys is Stephen Frears, a movie director. Alan Bennett lives just across the street and is over for dinner most evenings. Jonathan Miller lives down a few doors, close enough to borrow things from. Michael Frayn, playwright, is a neighbor, as is John Lahr, American theater critic, and a host of others. Some celebrities only pop in for cameo appearance, such as Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson.

The second part of the book consists of the letters Nina sent to Victoria from university. There's an overlap, as Nina was no longer the nanny, but Mary Kay invited her to stay at the house and Nina continued to help out but on a more casual basis. I found the university adventures less interesting than the Bloomsbury gossip.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 30, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Nina Stibbe moves to an upscale neighborhood in North London to become a nanny to Mary-Kay Wilmers, a single mother and editor of London Review of Books. She writes home to her sister, Victoria, "Being a nanny is great. Not like a job really. Just like living in someone else's life." Her charges are Mary-Kay's two sons, Sam and Will. Nine-year-old Will is the worrier; it’s 1982, and he’s concerned about nuclear war. Sam is 10 ½ and has some physical disabilities that aren't named. Appearing to take his condition in stride most of the time, he’s a keen observer who seems wise beyond his years.

The neighborhood is a Who's Who of literary and creative types. Alan Bennett, playwright and actor, drops in often, especially at meal time. Nina wrote Victoria that he starred in the long-running and very popular British soap opera “Coronation Street,” but she is incorrect. Jonathan Miller, actor and opera director, is another neighbor whose occupation Nina gets wrong. Eventually, she sorts it all out and comes to really enjoy being in the company of this eclectic group of folks. Her observations and descriptions of the friends and neighbors who come and go from the Wilmers household are fresh and unedited. She writes that Mary-Kay, Sam and William all have basin (bowl) haircuts, Mary-Kay often cusses, and privileged folks don't talk about money. She introduces her charges to Toffos, which Will decides are "just naked Rolos," and describes the men Mary-Kay dates.

Nina's letters to Victoria are full of opinions and bits of conversations about daily life. Nina dyes her plimsoles (sneakers) a greeny-blue in the washer, and then all the laundry seems to be a bit greeny-bluish.
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