Prize draw ends 21 Nov 2013, 5pm. Talk: 2 Dec 2013
Oh, what a joy this book is. It’s a book of letters written in the 1980s by a young woman who moves to London to work as a nanny, to her sister back home in Leicester. Nina Stibbe is twenty when she arrives in Gloucester Crescent to live with Mary-Kay Wilmers, editor of the London Review of Books, and her sons, Will and Sam Frears, who were then nine and ten. Stibbe settled into life as a London nanny quickly and happily, and clearly became part of the Wilmers/Frears family immediately. But because she missed her nightly confabs with her sister Victoria, Stibbe wrote to her daily instead, describing her experiences in wonderful, beautifully succinct detail.
The book is full of the mundane: what Stibbe cooks for dinner, a weave-perm going wrong, getting caught out in a lie, borrowing a ladder from the neighbours, a fellow nanny’s brags, but it’s the way Stibbe observes it all and then recounts it that is so addictive. It’s laugh out loud funny. It’s moving, and gossipy, and of course fascinating, the way other people’s daily lives are, especially when observed by someone with such a generous but beady eye. The neighbours, by the by, are Alan Bennett (who joins the family for supper every day), Jonathan Miller and Claire Tomalin. It’s a wonderful portrait of family life, and the relationship that emerges between Stibbe, the boys and MK (Wilmers) makes for glorious reading. It’s also, it turns out, a love story. I devoured this book and can’t stop myself going back and re-reading great chunks of it at a time.
We’ve got three signed copies to give away too. If you’d like to win one, fill in the form below by 5pm on 21st November, when we’ll pick three names out of a hat. Do note also that Nina Stibbe will be doing a talk – in conversation with Nick Hornby to be precise – on Monday 2nd December at the lovely (but small; book tickets now!) Lutyens and Rubinstein Bookshop in Notting Hill.