Summary

National Book Award Winner
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 divorcée 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-divorcée mother are packed off to a small, slightly hostile village in the English countryside. Their mother is all alone, only 31 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.
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.
©2014 Nina Stibbe (P)2014 Audible Studios
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Critic reviews

"Man at the Helm, a first novel, joins on my shelf a small but joyous set of much-loved books narrated by girls… 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." ( Times)
"This joyous read, full of wit and charm, will resonate with anyone who has ever felt like an outsider. The glorious cast of characters includes a faithful Labrador called Debbie, a charismatic pony called Maxwell and the child-hating daily help Mrs Lunt… I am already longing for Nina Stibbe’s next book." (Cathy Rentzenbrink in the Daily Express)
"The narrator's voice is wonderful and the adults gloriously bizarre… All hail a book that's funny! This book's a winner, isn't it?" (Barbara Trapido, author of Brother of the More Famous Jack)
"I’m sure I haven’t been the only one eagerly awaiting Nina Stibbe’s follow-up. Her debut novel doesn’t disappoint … Read it and be charmed." ( Independent)
"An unassuming comic genius" ( Independent)
"Charming, warm-hearted and gently but irresistibly funny" ( Sunday Times)
"Funny, warm, life-affirming and accutely well-observed . . . A hoot" ( Metro)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Philip on 18-09-14

Just as good as expected

Love Nina has become one of my favorite (and funnniest) books. I loved Nina's first fiction, her voice recognisable from her diaries, but wonderfully telling a quite tragic tale from a child's point of view, beautifully observed with great '70's detail. And very funny. Highly recommended.

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Katie on 31-08-15

Humorousness and sadness all rolled into one

In a Man at the Helm an immature voice is commenting on her family, creating some humour and some sadness. It is this voice, the voice of Lizzie that is the key to both the humour and the sadness of the often quite difficult situations they all find themselves in. It reminded me of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, in this respect as both books have this element; they have a sort of fly on the wall aspect to them from a young person's point of view.

A mixture of the humour and fun, some kindness and the odd touching scene make this book worthwhile to listen to, if not the best thing I've ever read as some scenes get really, so very sad. However the narrator does an excellent job and raised the book into being the very best it could be.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By S. Yates on 04-02-18

One of a kind, funny and at times surreal

4.5 stars. So I loved this, but admit that it is likely an acquired taste. The humor is cutting and sardonic, innocent and wise, slapstick and heartbreaking. Our narrator is Lizzie, who begins at age 9 and progresses, relays the story of her parents' marriage coming to an ignoble end, their newly man-less family's (Lizzie, older sister, younger brother, and mother) forced move to the country, their ill-welcome given that the family lacks the eponymous "man at the helm," and how a steadily declining financial situation strains their new life and tests their eccentric and depressed mother. If this sounds maudlin and melancholy, it typically soars above those feelings. Lizzie is so precocious and wry and naive as a narrator, with that odd mix of perceptive, adult intelligence with swaths of childish oblivion, that the innate humor of their situation shines. Lizzie and her sister almost immediately determine that their mother needs a new man at the helm and much of the book's exploration of their family is done through the prism of their trying to track down a man for their mother. The reader laughs, cringes, roots for, and tears their hair out in frustration as things go in predictable and unpredictable ways. All this told in a 1970s England, with economic issues cropping up for many and the fast evolving feelings about love, sex, and a woman's place. All in all, this is a book that beggars real description. It is not a love story or a farce, or a coming of age story or a Dickensian tale of children down on their luck. It is not a slice of life or historical fiction novel, satire or tale of latchkey kids. But it combines aspects of all of these in a unique and engrossing way. Peculiar and particular, but recommended.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Ozzie on 21-10-15

Most enjoyable book

This was my first audio book and I congratulate the narrator who related the story so well. The unfolding tale is told from the perspective of a young girl, Lizzie, now an adult, of a fairly wealthy family split apart by unfaithfulness. The mother and three children move from the city to a village where they don't seem very well liked. Adapting to their changed circumstances throws up many challenges and with a mother seeming unable to cope, the children decide the only solution is to find a new man for their mother. Their efforts are both funny and entertaining. I look forward to reading more books by this author.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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