Man at the Helm

Man at the Helm

3.53 (2,265 ratings by Goodreads)
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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 divorcee 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).show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 138 x 202 x 34mm | 399.99g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0241003156
  • 9780241003152
  • 258,923

Review quote

All hail a book that's funny! -- Barbara Trapido I can't remember a book that made me laugh more ... At times [it] reminded me of Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle. Man at the Helm is a winner - It even trumps Love, Nina Observer [A] joyous read, full of wit and charm ... I am already longing for Nina Stibbe's next book Express A wicked anatomising of a dysfunctional family ... Buoyantly comic: farcical yet tender; rude with a forgiving sweetness Spectator 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 Fantastic. Comical, moving and brilliantly evocative of British childhood Glamour 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 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 Convincingly childlike but also confidently witty ... 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 Daily Telegraph Fans of Love, Nina will not be disappointed. Amusing, the writing is never less than accomplished Daily Mail I realised I would always love this book ... it's a comedy classic. if you loved I Capture the Castle you will love this ... In Stibbe's hands I laughed hard, page after page. Brisk, ruthless, understated, English comedy gold The Times Stibbe's talent for comic understatement is given a wonderful airing here ... Man at the Helm is an unusual and deft work. In Stibbe, Leicester has produced a fine chronicler of the comedic potential of provincial English life and its sometimes baffling mores Financial Times One of 2013's most acclaimed debuts was the hilarious Love, Nina, letters Nina wrote while working as a nanny ... Man at the Helm shares their sense of period and comedy Metro Man at the Helm presents us with a family up close, in all its absurdity, particularity and intensely felt drama. Stibbe scores many hits with this undoubtedly funny setup: her ear for off-kilter dialogue is as brilliantly tuned as it was in Love, Nina; and she is a maestro of bathos, continually undercutting vivid gaiety with moments of horrible sadness. Guardian Highly entertaining ... A real delight Mail on Sunday Stibbe's deadpan tone and sharp eye for detail are given even more chance to shine. The genuis touch is Lizzie's voice: her observations feel as age-appropriate as they are idiosyncratic and as heartbreaking as they are hilarious Stylist Riveting and laugh-out-loud hilarious Look Wonderfully funny and sparky. We loved it Bella Delightful. Full of wit and warmth Prima It's hard to imagine a more uniquely, charmingly and hilariously dysfunctional bunch ... a deeply affectionate hymn to the sheer insanity of family life The Lady Man at the Helm has understandably drawn comparisons to Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle, another thoroughly charming British novel of domestic life narrated by a young girl. More than 65 years after it was published, Ms. Smith's book still enchants a sizable cult of readers. Ms. Stibbe's novel is made of the same timeless material, making it easy to imagine that it will enjoy just as long a life New York Timesshow more

About Nina Stibbe

Nina Stibbe was born in Leicester. She is the author of the hugely acclaimed Love, Nina, which was shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year Award and won Non-Fiction Book of the Year at the 2014 National Book Awards, and the hugely best-selling novel Man at the Helm, which was shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction and the National Book Award Audiobook of the Year. She lives in Cornwall with her partner and two more

Rating details

2,265 ratings
3.53 out of 5 stars
5 17% (387)
4 37% (844)
3 32% (716)
2 10% (237)
1 4% (81)
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