Friday, 27 December 2013

LOVE, NINA by Nina Stibbe

Nina Stibbe worked as a nanny in the early 80s, and this book is made up of the letters she wrote to her sister during this period. The family she worked for were literary celebrities (Stephen Frears' ex-wife and her two children, with Alan Bennett over for dinner every night) which adds a sort of historical interest, but the primary charm of this book is Nina's lively sense of humour, and the warm sense of community that was evidently a large part of her life at that time.

Here she is on Brighton: "Arriving at railway station is good. It's downhill into town and you feel energetic, striding down to the sea front - as opposed to an uphill work at the start of a place. But then, before you get anywhere charming, you're surrounded by WH Smith and Boots and people wanting a haircut and you might as well be in Loughbough. Beach disappointing and the whole place pleased with itself for no reason." Totally accurate assessment.

Very enjoyably, there is much talk about language in the family she works for:
AB: This is tasty.
MK: Do you have to say tasty?
AB: It is tasty.
MK: I'm not denying it, but there's no need to say tasty.

I like this. While I don't have a big problem with the word tasty, I definitely don't like the word meal. And particularly I can't bear a hearty meal. A tasty meal is also pretty bad, now I come to think of it. I am glad to see others also dislike common words and aren't shy to control their acquaintances' usage of them.

A charming and strangely comforting short read.

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