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Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life, by Nina Stibbe, Viking, RRP£12.99, 336 pages
In 1982 a young nanny, Nina Stibbe, went to work for a family in Camden Town, the heart of literary north London. more than 30 years later, Stibbe’s funny, open-hearted letters to her sister back in Leicestershire have been edited and published, to much critical and reader acclaim.
Stibbe moved into the home of Mary-Kay Wilmers (now editor of the London Review of Books) and looked after her two sons – their father is the film director Stephen Frears. Stibbe chronicles life in the house and (best of all) the dinnertime conversations with their neighbour, Alan Bennett. (As Stibbe first describes him: “You’d know him if you saw him. He used to be in Coronation Street.”)
“AB” is reliably amusing, of course, but is revealed here as also very practical and able to sort anything from dodgy appliances to wilting roses. And Stibbe herself is Bennett-like in her deadpan, ruthlessly honest observations. Properly heartwarming.