February 19, 2015

Love, Nina adapted for the BBC by Nick Hornby


Dispatches from a very literary family life. Image via Penguin

Dispatches from a very literary family life. Image via Penguin

It was the unexpected hit of 2013, a memoir written by the one-time nanny to the editor of the London Review of Books, Mary-Kay Wilmers.

Nina Stibbe’s Love, Nina told the story of a young and naive Nina arriving in London from rural Leicestershire to work as the nanny for the editor of London’s most prestigious literary newspaper. Cue cameos from Alan Bennett, Claire Tomalin and Stephen Frears, and Stibbe’s innocent ignorance of who on earth they were. Combine that with warm and humorous stories about 1980s Britain: cooking, cleaning and class collisions.

How could it have been anything but a success?

When BBC Radio 4 made the memoir ‘Book of the Week’ it animated the text further, showing how entertaining Stibbe’s story could be as a dramatization. Little wonder then that Nick Hornby is now adapting the book into a five-part series for the BBC. The addition of Hornby is like adding jam to rice pudding, gravy to Yorkshire pudding: it’s delightful upon delightful.

As well as being the author of novels High Fidelity, About a Boy and Funny Girl, Hornby also wrote the screenplays for An Education, Wild and the forthcoming adaptation of Colm Toíbín’s Brooklyn (it’s no coincidence that High Fidelity and About a Boy made good films, Hornby’s writing style crosses over very neatly (and is About a Boy Hugh Grant’s best role to date? Discuss)).

In short, Hornby knows what to do with coming-of-age, bittersweet screenplays. He’s also very good at capturing British decades and moods (the 90’s of About a Boy, the drab suburban 1960’s of An Education; the swinging side of the sixties in Funny Girl) tapping into a nostalgia that British audiences are all too ready to feel.

We needed no reassurance but Hornby said of the adaption:

Love, Nina has already attained the status of a modern classic, and I am so happy that I’ve been given the opportunity to adapt it. We want to make a series that is as charming, funny and delightful as Nina Stibbe’s glorious book.

With such a satisfactory pairing of book and screenwriter we can now comfortably sit back and spend the rest of the wait wondering who will be cast in the leading roles. Who will be frank and formidable enough to play a younger Mary-Kay Wilmers, who will fit the frame of a youthful Alan Bennett, with his unexpected DIY skills? And who will have the right combination of flair, mischief and naïve verve of Nina Stibbe herself?


Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.