By Nina Stibbe
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From “the reliably hilarious” (Entertainment Weekly) author of Love, Nina: a brilliantly funny and heartbreaking story of growing up and finding the independence you might not actually want . . . 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.
The winner of the 2019 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction, Reasons to Be Cheerful is a novel that lives up to its title, confirming Nina Stibbe’s status as one of the most original and delightful writers at work today.
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1. Dentally Particular
I’d been happy in my previous job as an auxiliary nurse at Paradise Lodge old people’s home but after my mother reported the owner for tax evasion, I felt it best to move on and took a position at the largest garden centre in the Midlands, which had just opened on the outskirts of our village. I was put in charge of the newly planted display rockery (also the largest in the Midlands) and I’d have settled there and become a horticulturalist–but it was a temporary post and I was needed only until an expert arrived, who’d studied at Kew and would put their alpines on the map.
I spent dinner breaks drinking soup from my flask and scouring the classified advertisements in the Leicester Mercury looking for permanent work. I was old-fashioned in this regard, everyone else having gone on to instant (‘just add hot water’) soups by then but I wasn’t convinced the pieces of dried veg ever fully rehydrated in the cup and would therefore have to do so in my stomach.
Getting a good job was a challenge unless you had O levels or a friend in charge somewhere, which I didn’t. But this was late 1979 and the world was such that if you could demonstrate a bright attitude via a well-crafted letter, you might secure an interview, and with that, the chance to snatch the position from a more suitably qualified candidate. As with so many things back then, it was all about your choice of words, and luckily for me words had been abundant throughout my childhood and the imaginative use of them highly praised–written, sung, dramatized, televised, read and spoken. When my sister got herself into trouble at school for muttering, ‘Oh, go and imbibe nightshade,’ my mother had described it as ‘Shakespeare coming through’ and laughed so much she could hardly light her cigarette.
I had words in my head and at my disposal and now, for the first time in my life, I could appreciate it. For instance, when the Wintergreen Dental Practice in Leicester was seeking a ‘mature lady with previous experience’ to be their new dental surgery assistant, though I was just eighteen and had no surgical experience whatsoever, I was able to put in a confident, creative application with a letter that included the following:
While my own dental history has been uneventful, I have seen the effects of periodontal gum disease, acid saliva and unchecked dental caries at close quarters. In my previous position and the one before that, I maintained a large Alpine show rockery and over twenty sets of dentures, respectively–which in some ways were strikingly similar! I have been a patient at four different dental practices in the city of Leicester, treated by six dental surgeons (listed below) on the NHS and privately.
Any candidate might have used similar words, but they might not have written ‘strikingly’. Strikingly being one of those words, like extraordinary, that mark a person out, in writing. You write it, and it somehow describes you. Which is why it’s best to avoid negative words, like doubt, accident or presume.
An interview off the back of a cleverly worded letter brings with it certain pressures, though–if you’ve written of your ability to do a headstand on a trotting horse, then you must be able to demonstrate it if called upon to do so. Ditto, if you claim to possess ‘a wide-ranging knowledge of all things dental’.
I arrived for my interview at the Wintergreen Dental Practice–as prepared as I could be under the circumstances–ten minutes late, it being my mother’s fervent belief that on-time arrival is never desired by the host. A thoughtful visitor, she said, should aim to be fifteen minutes late and slightly drunk.
I was weak, medically speaking–but thanks to my stepfather, Mr Holt, having a good grasp of British social policy and a collection of reference books, I knew what percentage of the population had no natural teeth, the basics of the arguments for and against fluoridizing the water supply, and that the patron saint of teeth was St Apollonia. I also had a photograph of myself doing a headstand on horseback.
My outfit consisted of a prairie skirt in cheerful pinks and light yellows teamed with a handwash-only bolero in bubblegum. The ensemble (unusual for me, a jeans-and-jumper type) gave off a wholesome pioneering aura and it was a stroke of luck that my interviewer that Monday was practice manager Tammy Gammon (apricot hair and matching lipstick) whose soft-fruits palette toned well with mine. The moment we met she made a tiny nod of approval and recognition, and when she saw the book I held, she mouthed the title and said, ‘Oh, golly!’ in a happy, satisfied, slightly American way.
We took a flight of stairs to the staffroom where Tammy pointed to important features, like the window, kettle and fridge. I gazed at the view while she made three small cups of tea, and then we sat on low spongy chairs, opened our notebooks, and the interview began. She smiled at me for a long time, which I took to mean she wanted me to speak, so I did.
‘Even as a child,’ I began, ‘I was dentally particular–I wouldn’t dream of letting anyone use my toothbrush, especially not on an animal.’
‘“Den-tally par-tic-ul-ar”,’ said Tammy Gammon, scribbling in her notebook, ‘“not-on-an-an-i-mal”.’
‘And if by accident I ever left for school without brushing my teeth,’ I continued, slowly, giving her time to write, ‘I’d suck a Polo fruit at the first possible opportunity or brush them with my finger in the toilets, like a cavewoman.’
‘“Cavewoman”, gosh,’ she said, writing.
Minutes flew by and I think I convinced Tammy that teeth were absolutely central to my life. She certainly smiled a lot, and nodded her orange head as she took notes. While the interview was under way, a separate but consecutive part of my brain tried to fathom her. Was she as nice as she seemed? Did she like me? How old was she? Thirty? Forty? Fifty? Why did she keep writing the wrong things in her notebook? Was she actually American, or just polite? And why had she made three cups of tea?
She reminded me of a diluted Dolly Parton in her sweet womanliness, and though she was vague on dental matters, per se, she was profoundly interested in toothpastes and powders. She’d used more than thirty different brands in her life.
‘I used to love Punch and Judy strawberry flavoured,’ I said, ‘and progressing on to Signal felt like a rite of passage.’
Tammy cocked her head, unsure. ‘What’s that?’
‘It’s an anthropological term for moments that mark a significant change in status.’
‘But I don’t remember any strawberry toothpaste.’
‘Punch and Judy, it’s for children.’
Tammy winced. ‘Aha, that explains it,’ she said. ‘I was in the States for a bunch of years.’
‘“The States for a bunch of years”,’ I wrote in my notebook.
‘What do you use now?’ she asked.
‘I like Close-up.’
‘Hmmm, not minty enough,’ she said. ‘I used to like Crest and Colgate but, overall, I guess I prefer Macleans nowadays.’
‘Macleans!’ I was impressed. ‘But it’s so strong.’
‘Yeah, I know, not everyone can handle it to begin with, but you get used to it. It’s the best if you want fresh breath, better than SR, in my opinion–but don’t say I said so.’
Tammy told me that whoever got this job would never have to buy toothpaste or any dental product again. ‘You live on the samples from the suppliers. Toothpaste, brushes, floss, Interdens, mouthwash, tongue scrapers, Sterodent–you name it.’
‘Don’t remind me of Sterodent!’ I said, and told her about the mistake I’d made involving Sterodent cleansing tablets, which had her clapping her hands with glee.
She reciprocated with the time she’d written ‘Left’ instead of ‘Right’ on a dental card and a patient had had the wrong tooth extracted. ‘Boy, that took some explaining!’ she shuddered, thinking about it, and forced a little laugh. ‘It didn’t kill her though, and it could have been worse.’
After that, I felt it only fair to tell her about our bogus dental checks.
‘Wait! Bogus dental checks?’ she shouted, excited, alarmed, scribbling.
‘Well,’ I said, simplifying it for her, ‘don’t write this down, but my mother was in the middle of a mental breakdown and couldn’t get out of bed to drive us to the dental surgery and, to make matters worse, she’d just had a disastrous affair with the dentist and he was by then trying to patch things up with his wife.’
‘The thing was, though, my sister and I wanted a check-up.’
‘You wanted one?’
‘Yes, we did, so my mother asked her therapist to give us fake check-ups to put a stop to our nagging.’
‘She should have refused.’ said Tammy, indignant.
‘I know, but this therapist put our mother’s mental health before our dental health and so she poked around with a cocktail stick and a torch, and declared us dentally fit.’
‘“Cocktail stick”!’ Tammy, scandalized, turned to a new page in her notepad.
‘Yes, but the point is… don’t write this down,’ I reminded her, wanting to get back on track, ‘it was no substitute for an inspection by a qualified dental surgeon so we demanded that she get up and take us to see the proper dentist.’
‘And did she?’
‘She had to. My sister threatened to tell our grandmother if she didn’t and she’d have called her names on the phone.’
‘You know, “bad mother”, “neglectful”, “drunken menace” and so forth.’
‘Oh, my heckedy!’ said Tammy, with her hands in the air. ‘This is exactly why I’ve never wanted children.’
I had pangs, sharing all this with a woman I hardly knew but, without an O level to my name, demonstrating my potential as an entertaining colleague was imperative. It was all I had and I was certain my mother wouldn’t mind in the long run, and in any case, Tammy seemed delighted by her.
She told me that JP Wintergreen was a sole practitioner for the time being. And that he might or might not get a partner who would use the empty upstairs surgery.
‘May I ask why the practice needs a new dental nurse if there’s only one dentist?’
‘Well, I shouldn’t really tell you,’ she whispered, ‘but JP–the dentist–and I have got together and I’m going part-time.’ She touched her hair and tried not to grin.
‘What, like boyfriend and girlfriend?’ I said.
‘Yes, I’ve moved into his house on Blackberry Lane–you know, near the golf course. But I shouldn’t really have said anything.’
‘Congratulations,’ I said. ‘But I suppose you can’t offer me the job now you’ve told me the secret.’
‘Oh, no,’ she said, putting her fingers to her lips, ‘I can tell I can trust you.’
‘I won’t say anything,’ I assured her, and at that precise moment a man burst in, asking where the hell the tea had got to.
‘This is JP Wintergreen, senior dental surgeon,’ said Tammy, biting her lip. I won’t describe him in full detail now–just that he had surprisingly bad teeth (for a dentist), smelled strongly of vinegar and tobacco smoke, and the European way of arranging his trousers (hoist high, with everything all down one leg), none of which I held against him. He picked up a teacup and drank the contents down in two gulps.
‘You won’t say anything about what?’ he asked, looking at me.
‘About Tammy preferring Macleans,’ I said.
JP didn’t ask me anything about dentistry or teeth–only whether my father was a Freemason, or a Lion or a Flea. This was an unexpected line of enquiry. I paused momentarily to consider it and was about to say, ‘No, he’s in the Ecology Party,’ but Tammy seemed to want me to say yes (frantic wide eyes and nodding) so I said, ‘Yes, I believe he is.’ JP then told me about a flat above us on the second floor that would be available to the successful candidate at a very reasonable rent.
‘It’ll work out cheaper than your bus fares,’ said Tammy.
When we parted at the front door, I confirmed that I was available for an immediate start, and on the bus home I re-ran the interview in my head. I wanted the job. I liked Tammy Gammon and I could sense that JP would be manageable. I felt confident that Tammy would telephone later with good news. The flat sounded nice; washing machine and tumble dryer, and, with its two dustbin collections per week and the sitting room getting the evening sun, it would be tantamount to living in Australia. But it worried me. I didn’t want it. I had no desire to live on my own, two floors up, my sister right over the other side of town, and everyone else miles away in a village. I decided I wouldn’t even mention the flat to my mother. How would she cope without me? How would she get her novel finished or the baby fed? I wouldn’t even bring it up. I wouldn’t worry her.
At home my mother was excitable. Tammy had phoned and the two of them had had a long chat. ‘They’d like to offer you the job,’ she said, ‘and it’s all above board, salary, tax, national insurance and holiday pay and so forth.’
Apparently, my love of rabbits had nudged me ahead of a keen thirty-year-old who ran a Sketchley’s but wanted a break from the fumes. I couldn’t recall any talk of rabbits, but I began to tell my mother about Tammy favouring Macleans toothpaste for freshness.
‘Yes, I know,’ she said, ‘I heard it all from Tammy on the phone–I know everything.’
‘I bet she didn’t mention JP Wintergreen’s curly hair, or that he dresses like a rich Spaniard or that his leather shoes slip off his bare heels as he walks and dangle off his foot when he sits with a leg crossed. Or that the hairs on his legs stop abruptly at his ankle, like trouser legs, or a brown rooster. Or that Tammy herself has veins in her cleavage that look like the diagram of a lung.’
‘No,’ my mother conceded, ‘but she did tell me about the accommodation above the surgery–sounds perfect.’
‘Don’t worry,’ I said, ‘I shan’t take the flat.’
‘What?’ she cried. ‘Of course you will–the flat is basically the pay.’
‘But I’m not sure I’ll like living on my own,’ I said, ‘in the city.’
‘Christ almighty, Lizzie, are you mad? You can’t turn down a flat of your own, you’d have to be crazy. Think of Cait and Baba moving to Dublin and dyeing their underwear black!’
‘Yes, but Cait and Baba had each other. I’d be alone.’
‘But you can write a novel or learn the mandolin in a flat.’
‘I don’t want to write a novel or learn the mandolin.’
‘You’ll have two extra hours in bed every morning.’ Which, to be fair, was only a slight exaggeration.
And so, without my mother forbidding it, I had no reason to turn it down.
2. The Flying Pea
I’m not proud that my mother was still so important to me–I was eighteen years old and should have given her up by then, but to be truthful, she was like a character I’d come to know and love from a comic or a sitcom and, although I could often predict what might unfold with her antics, I enjoyed watching and I loved her and still do. It was as though all the other women in the world had decided to go along with everything, and to behave with decorum and stoicism whereas my mother had taken it upon herself to wave things away and call them nonsense. She was there to announce that long hair didn’t suit everyone, that dogs were preferable to children–if you had the courage to admit it–and that anyone who didn’t make life an adventure might as well be dead. And that if she ever had to commit suicide, she’d break into an undertaker’s at night and do it on a table there under a sheet with poison, to spare anyone having to find her poor dead body–except the undertaker, who was accustomed to dead people, and would take it in his or her stride.
People have tried to stop me writing about her–various relatives, envious of her popularity, and, on occasion, the woman herself–but she was as central to my life as dental matters, if not more so, and so here she still is. For at least half of my childhood she had battled drink and prescription drugs and needed a degree of looking-after, but now she only allowed herself a glass or two of wine per day or, in emergencies, sherry and a Valium, and was rarely what you might call drunk.
Career-wise, she was bored to tears, having been promoted from van driver to Customer Service Representative for the Snowdrop Laundry after a career break, during which she’d had a baby and tried to start up a pine-stripping business and almost fumed us all to death with Nitromors fluid. You might think the new job–which only entailed calling on the best customers to check on satisfaction–would be preferable to dashing around delivering laundry from a van and changing roller towels in filthy toilets, but you’d be wrong. She had loved being a van driver: the hard work, the laughter, the banter with van boys, pub landlords, shop women, factory workers and traffic wardens. Racing other vans up the A46 and bursting into the gents shouting, ‘Lady with towels–coming in,’ as the men hurriedly folded their penises back into their flies.
The problem with this new job was that it required her to listen to customers–who only ever seemed to complain and had no incentive to do otherwise. And this was problematic because my mother was temperamentally unsuited to that sort of thing. She despised any kind of moaning except when it occurred in a poem of heartbreak or injustice, and found it almost impossible to hide her annoyance. It was a miracle that she wasn’t sacked for recommending that the manager of the Old Lion public house ‘stop complaining for five minutes and listen to some Chopin’. Far from reporting her, he listened to some Chopin and gave her assorted salted snacks on the house the next time she called.
If it hadn’t been for the platonic friendship that had developed between her and Abe, grown-up son of a garage-owning customer, Abraham’s Motors in Highfields, she might have resigned after a few months. Abe certainly wasn’t a moaner. He praised the boiler suits (roomy but stylish) and the towels (super absorbent) and was a genius with my mother’s troublesome but much-loved car, the Flying Pea. It was actually Abe who’d spray-painted it green and christened it ‘the Pea’ in the first place. Mr Abraham senior had invested in a vehicle-spraying device and sought out vibrant car paints from India and Africa where life was brighter and people simply didn’t want black or grey cars. He had single-handedly started the rage for painted cars, because of which they were one of the richest families in the city. They owned four garages, two homes and an aeroplane. Put it this way, if you saw a brightly coloured car in the Midlands in the 1970s or ’80s I can pretty much guarantee it would have been sprayed by Abraham’s Motors. Abe’s own car was a Jaguar–in Parma violet.
My mother was a keen driver. She loved to talk about cars and their engines, and enjoyed nothing better than changing a tyre in full view of the traffic on grass verges with people driving past honking or even stopping to admire her or offering to help, and her being able to stand up, oily hands on hips, fag in mouth, and say, ‘Do I look as though I need help?’
Abe used to say he wished my mother was one of their mechanics but never went as far as offering her a job because of a hunch that she’d be more trouble than she was worth. But he did like having her around, sitting on the workbench, stirring the oily sawdust with her bare toes, because he was training to become a counsellor and hypnotist specializing in shame and she was au fait with the jargon–and didn’t mind being analysed by a novice.
In case you’re wondering, my stepfather, Mr Holt, was most tolerant about this friendship but though happy with the free counselling, he drew the line at trampolining or yoga in case one thing led to another, which it might have. (Abe resembled the young V. S. Naipaul, but taller.) I recall Mr Holt one time asking how Mrs Abe might feel about it all.
‘Don’t worry, there’ll never be a Mrs Abe,’ my mother had said, and Mr Holt had said, ‘Oh, I see,’ and had been satisfied with that.
When people in the village heard I was about to start working in the city, they tried to unsettle me with tales of woe. I’d soon regret it, they said. The journey into Leicester was so long and winding and went all round the houses, I’d spend half my life on the bus and half my wages on the fares. When I explained I’d be living there too, they told me I needn’t think city folk would smile at me or say hello because they wouldn’t. And if I accidentally dropped my library card, they wouldn’t run up the street to hand it back–they’d use it to borrow books like The Tudor Appetite and The Betsy and never return them and it would be on my record for ever that I liked porn.
The city was full to bursting with prostitutes, they said, and Asians, and people trying to sell you things you didn’t need but would soon be addicted to–like feather boas, foreign cigarettes and ready-made sandwiches. 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, and I’d develop sinusitis. My mother told me this scaremongering was a complex mixture of jealousy and abandonment, and took the opposite view, highlighting the cultural opportunities and the permissiveness.
‘You’re free to express yourself in the city any way you like,’ she said. But she had to agree about the sinusitis.
Mr Holt moved me in the Snowdrop van the Friday before I was to start work on the Monday. We made a seven a.m. departure, in heavy rain, to beat the traffic but my mother, who’d planned to come along, appeared at five to in a nightshirt, and sifted through my belongings in the hall–looking for things I might have stolen. After an argument and the retrieval of a spoon and a Godspell cassette, she wished me good luck and took a chamomile tea back to bed.
Although Mr Holt and I had succeeded in beating the rush hour, all of nature seemed out to thwart us. First a small flood around the villages meant a tricky three-point turn, and then the vigorous testing of brakes (that I mistook for him having some kind of heart attack at the wheel) meant twenty minutes lost, and then a tree down, and two metal bins in the road with contents strewn, meant mounting a kerb to get by.
Mr Holt didn’t say anything but I knew he was dubious about this move. He’d had years alone in rental accommodation before my mother had trapped him into a long-term relationship by deliberately getting pregnant with a baby no father could leave–my brother Danny, who you’ll hear about in due course. So he knew a thing or two about town living.
I should explain that my stepfather was never called by his first name by me or my siblings. The reason for this being that he had been the foreman at the Snowdrop Laundry, and we’d known him as our mother’s eagle-eyed stickler of a boss for many months before she managed to lure him home for sex and to fix our television. He’d been Mr Holt ever since.
‘Just don’t go around smiling at people,’ he warned now.
We stopped at traffic lights on the brow of the hill approaching Leicester. Mr Holt yanked the handbrake and commented cheerfully that on a clear day you could see Old John from here, rising in the distance on the northern edge of the county, the beginnings of Charnwood Forest. I knew it well. My biological father and his new family lived that way and took Sunday walks together across the brackeny hills with their new dog, Mr Bingo (named after a terrible clown), and a picnic of hard-boiled eggs and mini-rolls. I knew this because on one of those walks, the yolk from my egg had fallen and Mr Bingo, who’d lain hopefully at my feet, had caught it in his mouth, swallowed it whole, and looked up for more. In the silence afterwards, just long enough to let the metaphor settle, I’d looked up to catch my father’s eye but the noise had begun again.
‘Naughty Mr Bingo ate Lizzie’s egg,’ chorused my half-siblings.
‘Only the yolk,’ I said.
But, as you know, the morning of the move was grey and rainy and we couldn’t see that far. I gazed at my new city–out over the vast built-up hollow, the soot-coated bricks and endless streets with an oily sheen, and the chimneys and towers poking up into the yellowish sky. I was going to spend my life with a parent on either side of the county and me in the dip–at the bottom, like a piece of barley in a dish of soup, I realized, or a leftover cornflake–developing sinusitis from the pressure.
My best friend, Melody, was miles away, training to be a nurse at Luton and Dunstable Hospital. And my sister was the other side of Leicester (an awkward two-bus journey away), training to be a different kind of nurse. Occasionally I’d see the two of them together and they’d join forces to say just what a rewarding career it was. Especially when painful trapped wind turned into an unexpected baby, a lemon-sized lump turned out to be an actual lemon, or the female tramp with senile dementia turned out to be the Queen’s second cousin and only dehydrated after a fall.
The cars behind us began to beep. A small van in the next lane crept forward even though the lights were still red. Cars behind egged us on. Someone shouted, ‘Move on, mate, the bleeding lights are out!’
Mr Holt hated to jump a light but this wasn’t jumping–the lights in all directions were stuck on red. If we obeyed, we’d none of us move and the lines of cars and vans would stretch back to Flatstone; no shops would open and not a single feather boa, or foreign cigarette, or ready-made sandwich would be sold. We edged forward and wove through a tangle of small vehicles and soon we were at the bottom of the hill, pulling into a mini lay-by which had been a tram stop in years gone by, right outside the surgery.
‘This is it,’ I said, surprised.
PRAISE FOR REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
Winner of the 2019 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction
- "The reliably hilarious Stibbe may have outdone herself with this witty, '80s-England-set exploration of one woman's struggles in early adulthood."—David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly
- "A quirky, charming novel about an uncertain young dental assistant's coming of age."—People Magazine
- "So dense with amusing detail that I thought about holding the book upside down to see if any extra funny bits might spill from the creases between the page."—Susan Coll, The New York Times
- "I read all of Reasons To Be Cheerful in one GLORIOUS gulpand it's SUCH a joy - Nina Stibbe turns out more perfect, sharp, unique sentences than anyone else in the game.It just CARTWHEELS."—Caitlin Moran, bestselling author of HOW TO BE A WOMAN
- "Stibbe proves she can channel the mind of a young woman and takes the reader on a coming-of-age journey that plucks at the heartstrings of every emotion."—Associated Press
- "Heart-skippingly funny, but also psychologically incisive, socially adept, and disarmingly poignant."—Booklist, starred review
- "Stibbe, a master of low-key observation and throwaway punchlines, captures Lizzie's romantic uncertainty and open, sometimes-wounded heart while also pointing up the intermittent absurdity and restrictions of life for women in provincial England in the early 1980s.An idiosyncratic, bittersweet coming-of-age tale that certainly justifies its title."—Kirkus
- "Nina Stibbe is funny and lovely."—BookRiot
- "To read a Nina Stibbe novel is to experience joy. REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL is the story of one young dental assistant's journey into adulthood. It's endearing, delightful, and funny in the smartest way. This novel shines from within."—Elin Hilderbrand, bestselling author of THE PERFECT COUPLE
- "SO SO funny, charming, odd-in-the-best-way and gorgeously uplifting! A delight from start to finish."—Marian Keyes, bestselling author of RACHEL'S HOLIDAY
- "This made me laugh and broke my heart . . . Stibbe is one of the all time greats."—Daisy Buchanan
- "Loved it! I so love Lizzie. She is brave and kind and funny and totally original . . . I couldn't have liked it more (as I think Noel Coward said.)"—Katie Fforde
- "Another great from Nina Stibbe."—Kathy Burke
- "The literary love child of Victoria Wood and Alan Bennett...this is pure laughing gas."—Neil Armstrong, Mail on Sunday
- "Very few writers can find the delicate balance between heartbreak and hilarity like Nina Stibbe."—Red Magazine
- "Reasons To Be Cheerful is just the read you need right now, seamlessly weaving together the big themes of life with charm and warmth."—Stylist
- "Nina Stibbe is an author of such effortless wit that she could turn a shopping list into a bestseller."—Isabelle Broom, Women and Home
- "There is innocence, and the loss of innocence, and the reassertion of a wider and better sort of innocence. The spirit of Victoria Wood, I think, hovers over the way Stibbe generates tender human sympathy through an accumulation of mundane provincial detail."—Guardian (UK)
- "Full of comedy, but with moving themes of loss and grief, it's an utterly charming coming of age story. A reason to be cheerful indeed."—Sunday Mirror
- "If you loved Adrian Mole you'll adore Lizzie Vogel...quirky and witty, it also packs an emotional punch."—The Sun
- "Bubbling humour."—Sunday Express
- "This wonderfully funny novel...she's still on sparkling form."—The Oldie
- "Lizzie is a witty, observant guide...while there are plenty of good gags and needle-sharp quips, the novel is most effective when not trying to be funny."—The Spectator
- On Sale
- Jul 23, 2019
- Page Count
- 288 pages
- Little, Brown and Company