Nina Stibbe - Love, Nina (4 stars)

A collection of warm, unaffected letters from the world of The London Review of Books in the 1980s

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Nina Stibbe - Love, Nina

Love, Nina is a collection of letters written by North London nanny Nina Stibbe to her sister Victoria, detailing her life in the employment of The London Review of Books editor Mary-Kay Wilmers, in 1980s literary London.

According to the author, the letters remain largely unedited. If this is true, and there is no reason to doubt it, then Nina is a genuinely gifted writer. Her letters, warm, unaffected and liberally peppered with accounts of the witty dialogue exchanged between the occupants and visitors at 55 Gloucester Crescent, paint a vivid picture of charming bookish domesticity.

One of the many elements which make this such a refreshing read are Nina’s careless, often irreverent references to the famous 1980s faces who are always popping in and out of the house, in particular the playwright Alan Bennett, who comes by for supper almost every night and proves to be unexpectedly good at DIY. Seemingly oblivious to his celebrity status, Nina practises her new recipes on him and receives his cooking tips with amusing bad grace.

However, it is self-deprecating, funny and warm Nina who emerges as the true leading light in this book. A perfect Christmas present for anyone who needs a good old-fashioned dose of charm in their life, this book is the gift that keeps on giving.

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