Reasons to be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe
Publishing Date: 28th March 2019
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Number of pages: 288
Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction
‘When people in the village heard I was about to start working in the city they tried to unsettle me with tales of woe. The sun, blotted out by the tall buildings, couldn’t shine and the rain was poisoned by the toxic fumes that poured from the sock factories. My skin would be covered in pimples from the hell of it all’
So begins a young woman’s journey to adulthood. Lizzie Vogel leaves her alcoholic, novel-writing mother and heads for Leicester to work for a racist, barely competent dentist obsessed with joining the freemasons.
Soon Lizzie is heading reluctantly, if at top speed, into the murky depths of adult life: where her driving instructor becomes her best friend; her first boyfriend prefers birdwatching to sex and where independence for a teenage girl might just be another word for loneliness.
In Reasons to Be Cheerful Nina Stibbe shows her extraordinary gift for illuminating the vital details which make us human. She is that rare writer who makes us laugh whilst reminding us of the joy, and the pain, of being alive.
Lizzie Benson, who we met in “Paradise Lodge” and “Man at the Helmet”, finds a job as a dental nurse to a horrible, incapable dentist JP Wintergreen. As it turns out, Lizzie is rather good at the job, she even undertakes some dental work herself. She also moves into the flat above the practice, becomes a fan of the women’s magazines she finds in the waiting room and learns a dental technician she falls for.
The characters were hilarious, but at the same time believable and relatable. Nina Stibbe has nailed the distinctive voice of Lizzie brilliantly and also, her characterizations are perfect and engaging. It was a great joy for me to read this book as it was the third one in the series and I loved to see the characters again – I’ve already grown fond of them and there is something special in them all – you may not like some of them but you still care about them. They’re all brilliantly crafted, no matter if they’re the main or the background ones.
This book is full of ridiculous situations but it doesn’t mean that it is not believable, because it is. Maybe it’s a bit overboard, maybe it’s a bit over the top, maybe we need to read it with a pinch of salt but this is what I expect from Nina Stibbe. The events simply work here, with this bunch of eclectic characters, and it seems natural. The author is great at observing and pays incredible attention to details, and this is what makes the book so outstanding – it might be not the quickest read, the pace is rather slow but the sharp observations and dialogues simply make it an addictive and hooking read. And let’s not forget the dry, sarcastic humour – it’s simply brilliantly clever.
Nina Stibbe brought back the 70s and 80s – music, the way people dressed, the cars. The references were there, the characters spoke like people in those times. This story will be so relatable to many because it touches upon growing up and not really knowing what it is you want to do with your life, and it shows that it’s also OK to simply find your ways as you go.
“Reasons to be Cheerful” was a brilliant and – yes! – cheerful read. It made me smile, it made me laugh, it made me cringe with embarrassment and I loved it. It was a witty, brutally honest and bitter – sweat novel, touching and poignant about coming of age, about family, relationships and grief. It’s brilliantly chaotic but this is why I liked it so much, and I loved the writing style – it’s straight to the point, it’s dry and it’s almost reportage – style but it works perfectly and Nina Stibbe is a great story – teller. If you’re in a need for a smile and chuckle and bonkers characters, do not hesitate – Nina Stibbe is the right person and her books sync up to this descriptions perfectly. Highly recommended!