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ninaLove, Nina
Nina Stibbe
Penguin

This isn’t the sort of book I tend to read nowadays, but it’s half term and I’m giving my brain a holiday. My daughter got me into watching the TV series, which was adapted by Nick Hornby. (I like it, apart from the lack of capital letters).

The book is a collection of letters Nina Stibbe wrote to her sister, when she was working as a nanny in London, during the early eighties.  It is full of literary figures from the time, such as Alan Bennett, who is always popping over for supper.  However, even without the name dropping I would have found it amusing.

Nina has a eye and an ear for domestic details, but also manages to convey something of her housemates’ characters, from very small snatches of conversation. I think this is a talent and one I wish I possessed more of.

I enjoyed the nostalgic references and vicariously being part of a normal family for a short while. The people are North London, bohemian types, but I found them likeable and interesting.  The humour stems from the incidents in their lives, but also from the contrast between Nina and her more worldly, middle class companions.  So it is also a ‘coming of age’ portrayal of a young provincial woman, learning to be more sophisticated. I suppose that’s why I relate to it (being provincial and unsophisticated myself).

(I was desperate to use my new phrase, roman-à-clef, in relation to it. But I didn’t. Oh, I just did!).

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