Man at the Helm

Man at the Helm
Nina Stibbe
5 Stars

Lizzie Vogel is the nine-year-old narrator when the novel starts in 1970. When her father falls in love with another man. When her parents divorce. And when she and her unnamed older sister, younger brother, Little Jack and 31-year-old mother move from London to the English countryside.

Shunned by neighbours, the sisters’ fear becoming wards of the state and despite their mother’s erratic housekeeping, the girls live in greater dread of her artistic side.
Having received attention for a play she wrote when she was 16, their mother turns everyday events into snippets of a play, enlisting her daughters to help rehearse scenes.
Fearing their mother’s loneliness might exacerbate the play-writing, the sisters try their luck at matchmaking.

Comic writing can sometimes be undervalued but British writer Nina Stibbe’s buoyantly pleasurable first novel, Man at the Helm, needs to be taken seriously.
Nina Stibbe’s writing career began in her 20s and her hilarious semi-autobiographical tale is about the horrors of being an attractive divorcee living in an English village in the 1970s.

Written in the voice of 20-year-old Nina, the narration is funny and embarrassingly honest; covering everything from drunken mothers to the smell in urinals.
The sisters observations about courting and love is fabulously hilarious, complimenting Stibbe’s literary charm.
Exploring romantic connections, Man at the Helm is filled with funny lines and energetic writing.

Not shying away from seriousness; covering a miscarriage, financial worries and family issues, it’s enchanting from page one.

A timeless novel finishes.


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