— But you will be ready to say, what was your hope in doing this? — What did you look forward to? — To any thing, every thing — to time, chance, circumstances, slow effects, sudden bursts, perserverance and weariness ... Every possibility of good was before me, and the first of blessings secured ... — from Emma, by Jane Austen (1775-1817)
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October 5, 2014

Love, Nina: a nanny writes home


 
A funny, sweet, snarky, quirky, book, and my cup of tea, especially as an audiobook. (I consider that reading, in case there's a difference of opinion about that. :)  
 
After leaving school, the author came to London in the early 1980s to work as a nanny for Mary Kay Wilmers, the literary editor of the Times Review of Books, and the divorced mother of two young sons, Will and Sam.  The book is a compilation of Stibbe's letters to her sister, describing family life,  the boys' very funny conversations, and, later, her experiences at college, after she is encouraged to pursue a university degree she never thought would be possible.
 
Early on, she describes being a nanny as “not like a job really, just like living in someone else’s life," and that's part of the book's charm.  Anorher part, of course for me, is that their friends and neighbors include Alan Bennett, who comes over often for dinner, critiques the nanny's cooking, and fixes their bicycles, and Claire Tomalin. {Apparently, Bennett has complained that Stibbe 'misremembered' his prowess as a a handyman, which fits with the tone of the book.}  Sam has a rare genetic disorder, which makes him dangerously ill from time to time and affects or threatens his sight.  All of this is mentioned, but not explained or dwelled on.  You almost have to have found the book by reading about it to know all of this, because we see everything and everyone in it through the lens of a sometimes perceptive, sometimes unsophisticated writer. {The story is that the book came about when Stibbe read some of the letters, which her sister had kept, at a event in Wilmers' honor, 20 years after they were written.}
 
Especially good as an audiobook, because it had a sort of ordinary, everyday, sometimes deadpan, sometimes almost whiny delivery that seems to perfectly match what comes through in the writing. That might be because it was read by the author, something I totally missed until I went to Audible just now to look up the narrator's name.   :)
 
 

2 comments:

JoAnn said...

What fun! My audible wish list just grew again ;-)

Bellezza Mjs said...

I have this book in hardcover, which I began but abandoned I'm not sure why.minsuspect parts of me were afraid I wouldn't get it, being a bit unfamiliar with London life and famous people. Still, I love how you describe the down to earth, I'm just living my job, kind of writing, it must have been fun to listen to, especially with the author herself reading her story.

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