This proves once again there is nothing like British wit to make you grin, chuckle or laugh-out-loud. Stibbe’s first novel (following her memoir Love, Nina) does it all and not just in the delivery of a full range of humor. She is a master at creating sense of place and the voice of characters that you could befriend, foibles and all.
Reading a novel narrated by a child is a bit different… but then again nine-year-old Lizzie Vogel is no ordinary pre-teen. She is not an omniscient narrator but a smart, unworldly youth whose family is headed towards catastrophe. In the writing the author has succeeded in making sure Lizzie is not too precocious and has just the right tone for a once-privileged, but-not-spoiled, middle child whose family has lost everything including a full-time father, financial comfort, and social status. She and her sister make a plan to rescue their dysfunctional family.
They decide to find a new husband for their pill-popping, compulsive play-writing, demoralized mum.
To fill the vacancy they create a list from amongst the local population of males, and in a letter-writing campaign they invite the culled eligibles for a visit with Mum. Though the unsuspecting males should have found certain turns- of- phrase to be slightly “off” in the letters they received, none seemed to notice. (This is not to diminish the collective astuteness of the gentlemen, or the letter-writing skills of these youngsters, desperate to succeed.) Using one ruse or another they get these men in the door. Mostly things don’t go well as kids know very little about adult relationships. Paring down the list of sixteen makes for great hijinx and hilarity as you can well imagine. But will they bring their family back to relevance in this Leicestershire town in England circa 1970?
The bottom line is that there is plenty here to laugh at and the characters are charming and worth rooting for too. This is a quirky read that will entertain and pull at your heart-strings all at the same time.