Saturday, 2 January 2016

Man at the Helm - Nina Stibbe

Delightfully narrated through anxious and  insightful nine year old Lizzie Vogel, who, with her sister, desperately try to find their mother a new husband once their stuffy and austere father packs up and leaves the family for a relationship with a man after an embarrassing scuffle on the kitchen floor with their mother. Eventually evicted by their father from their fashionable city dwellings, they are shunted to a small town with a disappointingly low level of eligible bachelors which inspires the creation of the Man List. Mother, being a hopeless and pampered alcoholic, takes to play-writing every time another disappointment rocks her - a sure sign that things are bad- eventually succumbs to taking anti-depressants that make her tired and even less amenable. Convinced that only another man at the helm will cure their mothers depression and their fall from societal grace, the sisters strategically instigate meetings with potentials on the Man List. Woefully convinced that not only will the new man rectify mothers melancholy, but will also prevent their domestic decay into 'wards of court'. Dealing with unfriendly town residents and a series of unsuitable candidates while seeing to their little brother Jack, Lizzie amusingly narrates a matter-of-fact account of a children shouldering domestic responsibility.
A hilariously entertaining read, it really is one of those books you put down regrettably when it ends - it had me in stitches from the first page. Nina Stibbe nailed the frank and literal humour of an English child in the 1970's, and I lapped up every word until the end of the book.
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