The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
Published by Headline
Available from all Good Bookshops and Online
What They Say
Meet Nina Hill: A young woman supremely confident in her own. . . shell.
Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, an excellent trivia team and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.
So when the father she never knew existed dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers.
And if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny and interested in getting to know her…
It’s time for Nina to turn her own fresh page, and find out if real life can ever live up to fiction. . .
What I Say
“Biology is not destiny, and love is not proportionate to shared DNA.”
This is the final novel I have to review for the Comedy Women In Print Shadow Panel, and apart from it having been an absolutely brilliant experience, and opening my eyes to lots of different authors, it has also challenged my preconceptions of what a ‘comedy’ novel is.
In judging this shortlist, sometimes it is a scene or a description, a character or an incident, or even the words that are used at a particular time.
Nina Hill sparkles because of her wit and smart one liners – her ability to comment with the perfect line with perfect timing means this novel zings off the page. If I was to tell you that I could absolutely see it being made into a film, and that it would be one of those quirky romantic comedies that I am a complete sucker for (When Harry Met Sally anyone?) does it sound intriguing?
Nina works in Knights Bookshop and manages her day to day life by writing copious to do lists. While this seems an endearing trait, it is also a way for her to control her anxiety, and gives her a focus. She feels that this way she can compartmentalise and cope with the world outside her apartment and at her job. I thought it was really interesting to see how Nina’s anxiety is portrayed, and that in making it a part of the main character it brings it to the forefront of the story, whilst at the same time it is dealt with in such a way that it deepened my understanding of how crippling anxiety can be.
What is evident from the writing in this book is how much love Abbi Waxman has for books, reading and bookshops. She absolutely understand the joy it brings so many people (myself included!)! I found myself nodding along as she describes the joy Nina gets from her job, from finding books for readers, to setting up all the different clubs and events, and the genuine delight she has when she helps children engage with books.
Nina is seemingly contented, living with her cat Phil, and filling her days with work, and her evenings attending book groups and taking part in quizzes with her team. Nina’s mother is a photographer who has assignments all around the world, checking in with Nina as and when she can. We learn that Nina considers her Nanny Louise her real mother, and Abbi deftly shows the reader how sometimes the strongest bonds are not necessarily blood ones.
One day, Nina’s life is changed forever when she is told the father she never knew has passed away, and she now has a rather large and complicated family who live tantalisingly close to her. Nina discovers that her father was married multiple times until his death and she has inherited a whole family. Bursting into her life is a new and opinionated family, a plethora of brothers, sisters, step mothers and cousins. As she starts to meet them, Nina realises that maybe her way of living is not the only way if she could just start to have a little more confidence.
Alongside this, Nina is in denial about her attraction to Tom, a member of a rival quiz team – who she can’t stop bumping in to and absolutely everyone can see they are meant to be together. It’s just that Nina and Tom can’t.
After Nina attends the reading of the will, she starts to learn about who her father really was. Everyone has a different relationship and perception of him, and Nina has to try and fit together these very different snapshots of a man she never knew. As Nina spends more time with her family, she starts to see how some of them have similar traits to her, and Nina starts to understand that this group of strangers might become the very family she has needed for so long.
The different family members are captured perfectly, and I thought the way in which they react to Nina and deal with this stranger coming into their lives was dealt with so well. Some embrace her instantly, some are reserved, and one (Lydia) decides that Nina is out for all she can get- but I liked them all!
When Nina discovers that her beloved Knights Bookshop is threatened with closure as Liz the owner hasn’t been able to pay the rent, Nina has to try and find a way to save it as well as finally admit to herself that she and Tom are destined to be together. It could be that the inheritance from her father could be the very thing that changes her future and finally brings her family together as one.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill is a novel that is like falling into a huge marshmallow filled with books! It is comforting and sweet, with a heroine who is endearing and kind, characters who are unique and interesting, and is impossible to dislike. It is the perfect novel for losing yourself in entirely. If you are looking for a gritty and action packed novel that is emotionally challenging to read, then this is not your next book. If however you want to read a feel good story about love, new opportunities, families and finding the courage to change your life however scary that may be, then you need to meet Nina Hill very soon.