Thursday, 9 January 2014

Love, Nina

Love, Nina: Dispatches from Family Life by Nina Stibbe
Published by Viking
7th November 2013
Hardback edition



In the 1980s Nina Stibbe wrote letters home to her sister in Leicester describing her trials and triumphs as a nanny to a London family. There's a cat nobody likes, a visiting dog called Ted Hughes (Ted for short) and suppertime visits from a local playwright. Not to mention the two boys, their favourite football teams, and rude words, a very broad-minded mother and assorted nice chairs.

From the mystery of the unpaid milk bill and the avoidance of nuclear war to mealtime discussions on pie filler, the greats of English literature, swearing in German and sexually transmitted diseases, Love, Nina is a wonderful celebration of bad food, good company and the relative merits of Thomas Hardy and Enid Blyton.


Dear Vic,

Being a nanny is great.  Not like a job really, just like living in someone else's life.  Today before breakfast Sam had to empty the dishwasher and Will had to feed the cat.

Sam: I hate emptying the dishwasher.

MK: We all do, that's why we take turns.

Will: I hate the cat.

MK: We all do, that's why we take turns.

Sam: Anyway, Will, the cat hates you.

Will: Don't talk shit, Sam.

Sam: Don't say shit in front of the new nanny. (Drops cutlery on to the floor and shouts, "Trevor Brooking")

Will: Don't say Trevor Brooking in front of the new nanny. 

Sam had porridge (made by me in a pan).  Tea, no sugar.  Pills.

Will had grilled tomatoes with garlic (he made it himself, except for lighting the grill) and tea, three sugars.

MK had hippy bread (not granary), toasted.  Early Grey, one eighth of a spoon of sugar.

Lucas had Go-Cat (chicken flavour), water.

We are very near the zoo, but they never go there.  And nearish to Madame Tussaud's but they never go there either.  They never do the things you'd imagine.  Apparently only people who don't live in London do all that stuff.  Real Londoners just go to secret places that tourists don't know about, like Hampstead Heath.  Our closest, Monopoly-wise, would be Oxford Street (green) or Euston Road (blue).  But the funny thing is, how near everything is.  You could walk pretty much anywhere.  Distances seem further on the underground because you go all round the houses and not just from A to B.

Hope all's well with you.

Love, Nina

PS Jez lives up the road in halls of residence and his college (UCL) is very close to MK's office on Gower Street, which is quite near Oxford Street.

In 1982 Nina Stibbe moved from Leicester to central London, to work as a nanny for Mary-Kay Wilmers, then the editor of the London Review of Books.  This book is a collection of some of her letters to her sister Victoria.  As well as the everyday life of the Wilmer famiy, a few neighbouring celebrities are dropped into the letters too, in particular Alan Bennet who can be found popping round for tea and the author Deborah Moggach, who doesn't!


I initially wanted to read Love, Nina as I am known as Nina by my family - a strange reason to therefore want to read a book, but it's true!  Thankfully it turned out that I really enjoyed it!  It's a nice, easy read and the letters have a naive innocence about them.  We learn about MK and her two sons Sam and Will, as well as the other residents of Gloucester Crescent.  I found the book quite amusing at times, in particular one scenario involving borrowing a saw from the theatre director Jonathan Miller who was their neighbour, and then the panic of not being able to return it as it had vanished!  Nina certainly wasn't employed for her cleaning or cooking skills, and the book is full of recipies either tried or suggested by one sister to another - many involving turkey mince.  I won't be trying to recreate any of the dishes!


Love, Nina is a funny, light-hearted read that is perfect for dipping in and out of to while away the hours.


Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x


  1. Think this may be one for "the list" but I shall probably wait until it comes out in paperback.
    I have just finished Second Glance by Jodie Picoult. I didn't realize that is was a ghost story until I started, but enjoyed it anyway. Really glad I stuck with it.
    I normally pick up books in Charity shops or our local Co-op where they have a shelf in the Cafe for book donations that, you can then in turn, give a donation when you choose a book.

  2. I think Love, Nina comes out in paperback at the start of the summer - easy reading for on the beach! I have Second Glance somewhere (in fact I have all of Jodi Picoult's) but not read it yet! Must get round to it - at some point!


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