Posts Tagged ‘epistolary’


I listened to this audiobook across several of my training runs (which is basically how I listen to all of my audiobooks). I generally prefer a physical book to an audio, but I think this one worked as one to listen to.

The two main characters are Tiffy and Leon, and they narrate alternate chapters. Tiffy is just out of a bad relationship and needs somewhere to live, but on minimum wage, and in London, her options are limited. So she answers an ad for an unusual flat share…

Leon is a night nurse, who’s brother has been wrongly imprisoned and Leon needs to earn enough money to pay the appeal lawyer who is working on the case. He only needs his flat from 9.00am – 6.00pm because he is at work the rest of the time and spends weekends with his girlfriend Kay – so the answer seems obvious – he will advertise for a flatmate, who can have the flat to themselves every evening and weekend, as long as he can have it between in the daytime. Although they will be sharing a home and a bed, they need never meet. They still get to know each other though through the various post it notes which turn from quick messages to long conversations, and although Leon is initially bemused by all the girly stuff suddenly filling his flat, they become fond of each other despite never coming into direct contact.

This all sounds like a long explanation, and it is. But it’s set up really well, and I really liked the first half of the book. Both Tiffy and Leon are likeable characters, although very different – Tiffy is verbose and has a tendency to overshare, whereas Leon is quite closed and almost talks in bullet points.

I didn’t like the second half of the book quite as much. For quite a while the story seemed to go in circles and I do feel that a bit of editing could have improved it. It wasn’t awful though and still held my attention. But this being the kind of book it is, I knew – and I suspect every ready will know – how it is going to turn out although there are a few bumps in the road before we get there.

I think books with multiple narrators really benefit from the audio format. Carrie Anne Fletcher and Kwaku Fortune both did a great job of bringing Tiffy and Leon to life.

Overall, while I didn’t love this and don’t share the opinion of the huge amount of reviewers who have fallen in love with this book, it was an enjoyable read and a promising debut.

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This collection of letters from Nina Stibbe to her sister Victoria spans five years (1982 – 1987), and begins when 20 year old Nina moves from Leicestershire to London to become the live-in nanny to Sam and Will, the two young sons of editor/journalist Mary-Kay Wilmers.

Reading like a cross between Adrian Mole and Bridget Jones (as the letters do form a diary of sorts), this book is extremely funny (frequently) and frank. I particularly loved how almost every letter contained snippets of information between Nina, Mary-Kay, Sam, Will and other people (including, frequently, Alan Bennett who was not only a neighbour, but also a very regular visitor to the house).

I did start to make notes of some of the funniest parts, to quote in this review, but when I realised that there were parts I wanted to quote on every couple of pages, I had to stop otherwise I would have been making notes as much as I was reading the book.

As well as liking Nina very much, I also loved Mary-Kay, Sam and Will, who were all clearly intelligent and quick thinking. Nina was – by her own admission – not brilliant at cooking or cleaning, but clearly the family felt that she fitted in with them perfectly, so much so that even after she stopped being nanny to the boys and left to pursue a Literature degree, she subsequently moved back in to live with them.

It’s true that the letters contain a lot of the minutiae of family life, and often not much at all happens, and some reviews have been critical of this, but for me part of the attraction of the book was precisely that, and the fact that Nina could make such humdrum events so amusing.

I would highly recommend this book, and already know that I will be buying some copies of it for Christmas presents.

(Author’s website can be found here.)


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A series of letters to a fictional niece, who is struggling to read Jane Austen, is the hook on which Fay Weldon hangs this collection of fifteen essays (for want of a better word) about Jane Austen, her life, her novels, and the era in which she lived. This subject is the basis for thoughts about writing, what it means to be an author, and how people approach the art of writing a book; and how readers consider and enjoy books. The author also offers snippets of advice about life and love to her 18 year old niece.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s very eloquently written, and easy to take in. I learned about aspects of Jane Austen’s life, and discovered new perspectives from which to read her books. It is certainly not necessary to like – or even to have read – Jane Austen to enjoy this book (indeed, the fictional character it is aimed at is not enjoying reading Austen), but I would imagine that if you have never picked up an Austen novel, this would make you want to.

As you might expect, Weldon is forthright, honest and intelligent. She is also often amusing, and made me think – and also made me want to reread Emma very soon!

I would certainly recommend this enjoyable collection of letters, whether or not you are a fan of Jane Austen.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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