Title: Reasons to be Cheerful
Author: Nina Stibbe
Publisher: Viking Books
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.
Reasons to be Cheerful is a brilliant read. It features likable, hilarious characters and a story that I (and many other people) can really relate to – growing up not knowing exactly what you’re going to do with your life, or where you fit into a ‘bigger picture’, and finding your way as you go.
The novel spins a fantastic tale about Lizzie, who grew up in a village and makes that leap to a ‘bigger city’, with an – admittedly slightly random – career with extremely odd colleagues, which make me smile, laugh and – surprisingly – cry! Anna Stibbe writes so brilliantly, creating characters you really care about, plus some you don’t but who are still really entertaining to read about. Lizzie’s family, friends and casual-or-perhaps-not-so-casual boyfriend are all crafted so well, I can imagine them as people I actually know.
The completely ridiculous situations make this novel so heart-achingly entertaining; one of the most memorable for me is the many times where Lizzie has to hold the dentist’s cigarette for him to puff on, so his hands don’t smell of smoke for customers afterwards.
It’s a testament to Anna Stibbe’s writing that the story doesn’t actually have a whole lot of ‘big action’ as such, but it’s still completely addictive reading. I think this is because there are so many small but absolutely spot on references and observations from Lizzie about everyday life that made me really engage with the story. The novel’s dry wit also elevates it above other books with a similar storyline.
Reasons to be Cheerful is actually the third in a series, which I didn’t realise before I started reading (so I’m now absolutely dying to read of the other two books, to learn more about Lizzie) and I definitely didn’t feel that I was missing anything from not having read the first two. So if you haven’t read the rest of the series, definitely give this a go anyway – but be prepared to then want to read anything and everything else by Nina Stibbe afterwards!
Many thanks to Viking Books for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.
Reasons to be Cheerful will be released on 28th March 2019.
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Very cheerful cover! But it also sounds like a really interesting mix of themes ????