Man at the Helm

Author(s): Nina Stibbe

Biography & Memoir

This book was nominated for the 2014 National Book Awards Audiobook of the year. Man at the Helm, the debut novel from Nina Stibbe - the much-loved author of Love, Nina - is a wildly comic, brilliantly sharp-eyed novel about the horrors of being an attractive divorcee in an English village in the 1970s, and a family's fall from grace...My sister and I and our little brother were born (in that order) into a very good situation and apart from the odd new thing life was humdrum and comfortable until an evening in 1970 when my mother listened in to my father's phone call and ended up blowing her nose on a tea towel - a thing she'd only have done in an absolute emergency. Not long after her parents' separation, heralded by an awkward scene involving a wet Daily Telegraph and a pan of cold eggs, nine-year-old Lizzie Vogel, her sister and little brother and their now divorced mother are packed off to a small, slightly hostile village in the English countryside. Their mother is all alone, only thirty-one years of age, with three young children and a Labrador. It is no wonder, when you put it like that, that she becomes a menace and a drunk. And a playwright. Worried about the bad playwriting - though more about becoming wards of court and being sent to the infamous Crescent Home for Children - Lizzie and her sister decide to contact, by letter, suitable men in the area. In order to stave off the local social worker they urgently need to find a new Man at the Helm. "All hail a book that's funny!" (Barbara Trapido). "[A] joyous read, full of wit and charm...I am already longing for Nina Stibbe's next book." (Observer). "Nine-year-old Lizzie (our narrator) is the perfect conduit for her creator, just the right mixture of childhood innocence and incredulity for the necessary deadpan delivery of Stibbe's particular brand of comedy. Read it and be charmed." (Independent). "A beguilingly comic blend of naivety and precociousness." (Sunday Times). Nina Stibbe was born in Leicester. She is the author of the hugely acclaimed, Love, Nina. She now lives in Cornwall with her partner and two children. Man at the Helm is her first novel.


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Shortlisted for Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize 2015.

I can't remember a book that made me laugh more ... Man at the Helm is a winner - it even trumps Love, Nina Observer A wicked anatomising of a dysfunctional family ... Buoyantly comic: farcical yet tender, rude with a forgiving sweetness Spectator Read it and be charmed. Just the right mixture of childhood innocence and incredulity for the necessary deadpan delivery of Stibbe's particular brand of comedy Independent All hail a book that's funny! -- Barbara Trapido [A] joyous read, full of wit and charm ... I am already longing for Nina Stibbe's next book Express A beguilingly comic blend of naivety and precociousness Sunday Times Within a few pages I was completely caught up in the lives of Lizzie and her family ... I couldn't have loved it more -- Lisa Jewell Fantastic. Comical, moving and brilliantly evocative of British childhood Glamour This book is very, very funny. Stibbe has a fine eye for absurdity, and her writing has an unforced charm. [And] there is real darkness here, which makes the humour shimmer all the more Independent on Sunday Lizzie's voice is convincingly childlike but also confidently witty ... What is most moving here - and what makes the book most similar to Love, Nina - is its celebration of the happiness possible within the family. Stibbe's feat is to remain unsentimentally barbed while subtly and triumphantly demonstrating the value of the kind of understated love found within the strangest and least obviously functional families Telegraph Fans of Love, Nina will not be disappointed. Amusing, the writing is never less than accomplished Daily Mail This densely populated coming-of-age story (for both mother and children) has retained and even expanded on Stibbe's signature antic charm ... The appeal of Stibbe's novel lies less in plotting than in the way she shades a sequence of comic vignettes with seriously sad undertones. It's not too much of a stretch to conclude that Man at the Helm, with its jauntily matter-of-fact social satire, wouldn't be out of place on the same shelf as Cold Comfort Farm and I Capture the Castle New York Times

General Fields

  • : 9780241967805
  • : Penguin Books, Limited
  • : Penguin Books, Limited
  • : June 2015
  • : United Kingdom
  • : July 2015
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Nina Stibbe
  • : Paperback
  • : 1
  • : 823.92
  • : 336