Earlier this year I caught a couple of episodes of the BBC’s TV adaption* of ‘Love, Nina’ by Nina Stibbe*. Captivated by its tone and wistful shots of North London I decided to pick up a copy of the book itself.
‘Love, Nina’ is a series of letters written by Nina Stibbe, to her sister, during the period of her early adulthood, in the 1980s, spent as a London based nanny. Through her cooking endeavours, hospital visits, literature studies and family dinners we get a charmingly funny snapshot of family life in an upper-class London community.
Nina is a quirky protagonist, the sort of person you warm to because of their minor inadequacies and originality. In a sense this is a coming of age story; Nina is expanding her horizons, delving into literature, learning skills for life. From failed beauty treatments to battles with Chekhov we find that she’s someone willing to try the mainstream but doesn’t necessarily belong there and that’s something I can highly relate to.
Upon moving to London from Leicester, Nina is situated with a single mother (Mary-Kay, a journalist) and her two sons Sam and Will. They’re a delightfully intellectual family with strong ties to the rest of their Primrose Hill community to the extent that Alan Bennett regularly pops over for dinner and indeed appears in Nina’s letters. As someone who dreams of a Mary Poppins type house in North London, the setting of this book made for an indulgent read.
From the get go Nina’s voice is crystal clear and it soon feels like she’s writing to you as opposed to her sister – an effect that’s amplified by the fact that the book doesn’t contain any of her sister’s responses. This also made some aspects of the letters wonderfully unexpected, with only half of the story, Nina would often be responding to something you had no idea about.
Overall, ‘Love, Nina’* is a book full of heart and wit. It’s a super easy read that will leave you missing the characters and wanting to live the rest of their lives via the page. I highly recommend it, especially to those wishing they had an NW postcode.
If you’ve read ‘Love Nina’ I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts.