Reasons to be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe
In her latest novel, set in 1980, Nina Stibbe reintroduces us to Lizzie Vogel, the “child and then adolescent protagonist” of her previous two, said Sam Leith in The Guardian. Lizzie, 18, is “living by herself in the big city (Leicester)”, working as an assistant in a dentist’s surgery – where we are introduced to the “memorably unappealing” dentist JP; his girlfriend, Tammy; and a “handsome” technician, Andy, on whom Lizzie develops a crush. The period detail is “exact and remorseless”: everyone smokes; there’s a “background thrum” of racism; meals include “spaghetti rings and chopped-egg flan”. It’s all very well crafted – and proves much more than a mere “assemblage of whimsy”.
Readers of Love, Nina, Stibbe’s bestselling non-fiction memoir, will find the tone familiar, said Andrew Billen in The Times. “It is unique”: close to Sue Townsend, but with Alan Bennett, Barbara Pym and “even Jane Austen” thrown in. And yet the all-pervasive chattiness means it can be difficult to “distinguish between the trivial and the important”. Stibbe’s jokes are as good as ever – but their purpose isn’t always clear.