Teenager Lizzie Vogel has a new job as a dental assistant. This is not as glamorous as it sounds. At least it means mostly getting away from her alcoholic, nymphomaniacal, novel-writing mother. But, if Lizzie thinks being independent means sex with her boyfriend (he prefers bird-watching), strict boundaries (her boss keeps using her loo) or self-respect (surely only actual athletes get fungal foot infections?) she’s still got a lot more growing up to do.
I am the first to admit that I don’t always get humour in books, it’s such a personal reaction! I like my humour to be subtle, to be mixed with lots of other varied emotions and Reasons To Be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe fitted the bill perfectly. It wasn’t just funny and charming, it was filled with warmth and easy to love characters, so the perfect combination.
One of the things I most loved about this novel was the characterisation, because it felt real and radiated warmth!
Teenager Lizzie Vogel is an eccentric, quirky teenager from a far from quintessential family and she is a delight. Much of the comedy comes from her coming of age story as she navigates the adult world and the eclectic, loveable characters that fill hers. More than once her often innocent, sometimes unconventional view of the world and her own actions made me giggle out loud. A rare event when I am reading and it just served to make me love her all the more
Then there was her mother whose off-centre actions and glorious determination to be a writer endeared her to me, because underneath all of that, her vulnerability explained her often oddly endearing behaviour.
The story itself is simple and quirky, but at the same time it deals with some difficult subjects such as metal health and loss. Making the story nuanced and delightful to be a part of. The humour springing up from Lizzie’s teenager rich out look on life and her mother’s and colleagues sometimes madcap actions. One such moment that reduced me to giggles was when she helpfully applied ‘Thunderclap’ eyeshadow to a nervous customer, now that has never happened at my dentist!
The humour is gentle as is the story, it all comes from a love of Lizzie, so we are laughing with her and not at her. It makes the story feel warm and generous to read and when it raises a laugh it’s the best feeling in the world. I like my humour pleasant and inclusive and Reasons To Be Cheerful gave me that.
If you are looking for a book with a generous and funny story at it’s heart then this is the book for you. The humour is endearing and the characters quirky and rich in personality.
Making it is a great book for our troubled times.
But why not give your local indie bookshop a call, they need all our support, especially at the moment.
About the author
Described as the natural heir of Sue Townsend, British author Nina Stibbe made her breakthrough with her hilarious book, Love, Nina. A selection of letters from Stibbe to her sister when she was working as a live-in nanny for a London family in the 1980’s, the book – described by Stylist magazine as ‘like a 1980s Mary Poppins with a sense of humour’ – became a bestseller, inspiring a BBC series. Nina Stibbe’s other works include a loosely connected set of novels about the Vogel family: Man at the Helm, Paradise Lodge and 2019’s Reasons to be Cheerful as well as An Almost Perfect Christmas.