Man at the Helm (Hardcover)

A Novel

By Nina Stibbe

Little, Brown and Company, 9780316286671, 320pp.

Publication Date: March 10, 2015

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (1/5/2016)
Compact Disc (3/5/2019)
MP3 CD (6/7/2016)

List Price: 25.00*
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A New York Times Notable Book of 2015

From the writer of the hugely acclaimed Love, Nina comes a sharply funny debut novel about a gloriously eccentric family.

Soon after her parents' separation, nine-year-old Lizzie Vogel moves with her siblings and newly single mother to a tiny village in the English countryside, where the new neighbors are horrified by their unorthodox ways and fatherless household. Lizzie's theatrical mother only invites more gossip by spending her days drinking whiskey, popping pills, and writing plays. The one way to fit in, the children decide, will be to find themselves a new man at the helm.

The first novel from a remarkably gifted writer with a voice all her own, MAN AT THE HELM is a hilarious and occasionally heart-breaking portrait of childhood in an unconventional family.

About the Author

Nina Stibbe was born in Leicester. She is the author of the hugely acclaimed Love, Nina. She now lives in Cornwall with her partner and two children. Man at the Helm is her first novel.

Praise For Man at the Helm: A Novel

"Man at the Helm is a winner- a brilliant find....It is full, free, outlandish. And I can't remember a book that made me laugh more. [Stibbe] doesn't take anything seriously. Or rather, she does, and yet her eye and ear for the absurd never desert her- they are part of who she is."—The Guardian

"Some of the most perceptive writing I've read about relationships in a while....this book is very, very funny. Stibbe has a fine eye for absurdity, and her writing has an unforced charm."—The Independent

"[A] joyous read, full of wit and charm . . . I am already longing for Nina Stibbe's next book."—The Observer

"an impressive first novel, a combination of P. G. Wodehouse pacing and the eccentricity of Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals (1956). An extraordinarily well-written, deeply satisfying read about an unusual, highly entertaining group of people."— Booklist

"While Man at the Helm is hilarious and heartfelt, it also offers a poignant peek into a not-so-distant time when women's choices were limited and their dependence on men profound. Based on Stibbe's childhood, Man at the Helm is a beguiling, often wickedly funny look at an unusual family trying to find its place in a conventional world.

Stibbe's Man at the Helm is
straight-up hilarious, a brilliant collage of a family in glorious ruin.
Stibbe's wry, sly wit propels the novel forward at breakneck speed, but don't
be fooled: underneath all the exuberance beats a surprisingly melancholy heart."—Lauren Fox, Author of Still Life with Husband and Friends Like Us

"Stibbe's astute, deadpan charm is impossible to resist."
Kim Hubbard, People

"This densely populated coming-of-age story (for both mother and children) has retained and even expanded on Stibbe's signature antic charm...It's not too much of a stretch to conclude that Man at the Helm, with its jauntily matter-of-fact social satire, wouldn't be out of place on the same shelf as Cold Comfort Farm and I Capture the Castle.
Alida Becker, The New York Times Book Review

"Lizzie's scheme to find a suitable match for her [mother] sparkles with humor as British as mincemeat pie."
Entertainment Weekly

"impossible not to love...a glorious, hilarious and touching picture of an unforgettably eccentric family...a novel that while brilliantly comedic is also a heartfelt celebration of the love that can flourish in even the most seemingly dysfunctional family."—Amy Goodfellow Wagner,

"Ms. Stibbe's writerly charms and her sneakily deep observations about romantic connection are on display throughout...'Man at the Helm' is densely peppered with funny lines, but even more striking is the sustained energy of the writing. In almost all the space between jokes, there remains a witty atmosphere, a playful effect sentence by sentence."—John Williams, The New York Times

"Funny and engaging...I simply hugged myself with joy reading this book, for the tale it tells, which is funny, painful, and ultimately happy, and above all for the voice, which is perfection."
Katherine A. Powers, The Christian Science Monitor


"I adored this book, and I could quote from it forever. It's real, odd, life-affirming, sharp, loving...and I can't remember the last time I laughed out loud so frequently while reading."—Nick Hornby, The Believer

"Breezy, sophisticated, hilarious, rude, and aching with sweetness: Love, Nina might be the most charming book I've ever read."—Maria Semple, author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette

"These letters are winning from the start...we simply like being in Ms. Stibbe's company."—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

"You'll find yourself laughing out loud but also touched by the book's depiction of family as it should be: people bound not just by blood but by shared affinities, humor and unfailing interest in hearing the answer to the question, 'How was your day?'"—Kim Hubbard, People

"I must MOST EARNESTLY recommend Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe. It's the most piss-funny thing I've read all year. I can't remember a book since Adrian Mole that so brilliantly, drily nailed day-to-day life in BRILLIANT, faux-naive prose."—Caitlin Moran, author of How to Build a Girl

"I have never laughed so hard reading a book. Nina Stibbe's recollections of life as a London nanny are both hilarious and heartwarming."—J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Maine and The Engagements

enchanting. It's one of the funniest¿and oddest¿books I've read in a long time.... [Stibbe's letters] are perceptive and droll, and provide a glimpse into the domestic life of a fascinating literary family."—Moira Hodgson, The Wall Street Journal

Coverage from NPR