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Man at the Helm

by Nina Stibbe

Modern and Contemporary Fiction Relationship Stories Family Drama Biographies & Autobiographies Books with reviews by our Reader Review Panel eBooks of the Month Literary Fiction

LoveReading Expert Review of Man at the Helm

Fabulously funny, sharp and yet also touching and poignant, this semi-autobiographical novel from Nina Stibbe is wonderfully captivating and engaging. Two sisters (aged 11 and 9), conclude that finding their newly divorced mother a man will lead to happiness and turnaround the distinct unwelcome the family received after moving to a new home in 1970. Stibbe writes in such a way that you feel you are there, in that very moment, helping to plot an often unwittingly devious and destructive strategy. Achingly sad, moving and outrageous in turn, this evocative well observed novel shows how children know more than we think, think more than they should and have the ability to bounce back from adversity time after time. Just a quick bit of advice; snorts, giggles and guffaws will escape at will, so think carefully before reading in public. ~ Liz Robinson

Liz Robinson

Man at the Helm Synopsis

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.

About This Edition

ISBN: 9780241967805
Publication date: 18th June 2015
Author: Nina Stibbe
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 320 pages
Primary Genre Family Drama
Other Genres:
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Man at the Helm Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

  • Angela Rhodes - 'I laughed out loud so much, tears were falling down my face...Nina Stibbe is a breath of fresh air!' Read full review >
  • Edel Waugh - 'Go out and buy this book immediately!' Read full review >
  • Carina Barnett - 'The book is an utter joy to read, the dialogue poignant and witty...hugely entertaining and highly recommended.' Read full review >
  • Magdalena Vidgen - 'It was somehow lacking, but I can't say, in what way...' Read full review >
  • Molly Evans - 'Written from the perspective and in the style of a nine year old girl, a hilarious account of children's attempt to find a new partner for their mother.' Read full review >
  • Carolyn Huckfield - 'A debut from an author to take note of, this is a joy to read from start to finish. I love the characters she draws and the relationship the children have with their mother.' Read full review >
  • Phylippa Smithson - 'Loved the opening chapters during which I sniggered at the words and thoughts revealed by nine year old, Lizzie, whose eyes revealed the story.  However, overall I found it a little sedate and monotonous.' Read full review >
  • Victoria Halliday - 'Warm, funny and generally fabulous book.  You'll miss the characters after you finish it!' Read full review >
  • Francesca Ashurst - 'Nina Stibbe’s debut novel following on from the success of her memoir, Love, Nina is a bittersweet comedy, set in the early 1970s.' Read full review >
  • Sarah Webb - 'A light holiday read.' Read full review >
  • Ann Peet - 'Lovely, funny, quirky novel.' Read full review >
  • Suzanne Marsh  -  'an irresistible debut novel by Nina Stibbe. Laugh out loud funny!'  Read full review >
  • Sue Muir - '. It is like someone telling a funny story with a deadpan face. Beautifully crafted, it is a real joy to read.' Read full review >
  • Victoria Emerson - 'After reading the blurb I was expecting to really enjoy this book but unfortunately I found it a little disappointing.' Read full review >
  • Susan Walsh - 'A delightful read, thoroughly refreshing & humourous...A super book I rate it 10/10. Can’t wait for the next one.' Read full review >
  • Julie Collins - 'Man at the Helm is not just a book about a family break up. It is a story of a  hilarious, sometimes desperate quest undertaken by the Vogel sisters to find a man at the helm.' Read full review >

Man at the Helm Press Reviews

'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


'An unassuming comic genius' Independent


'Charming, warm-hearted and gently but irresistibly funny' Sunday Times (on Love, Nina)


'Funny, warm, life-affirming and accutely well-observed...A hoot' Metro (on Love, Nina)

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9780241967805
Publication date: 18/06/2015
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780316286749
Publication date: 10/03/2015
Format: Ebook

View All Editions

About Nina Stibbe

Nina Stibbe grew up in Leicestershire before moving to London in the 1980s. She is the author of the massively acclaimed Love, Nina, and lives with her partner and children in Cornwall.   Author photo © Rebecca Dawe

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