One Day I Shall Astonish the World

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Pub Date 21 Apr 2022 | Archive Date 21 Apr 2022

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From the prize-winning author of Reasons to be Cheerful comes a story about the ebb and flow of female friendship over half a lifetime

Susan and Norma have been best friends for years, at first thrust together by force of circumstance (a job at The Pin Cushion, a haberdashery shop in 1990s Leicestershire) and then by force of character (neither being particularly inclined to make friends with anyone else). But now, thirty years later, faced with a husband seeking immortality and Norma out of reach on a wave of professional glory, Susan begins to wonder whether she has made the right choices about life, love, work, and, most importantly, friendship.

Nina Stibbe's new novel is the story of the wonderful and sometimes surprising path of friendship: from its conspiratorial beginnings, along its irritating wrong turns, to its final gratifying destination.

From the prize-winning author of Reasons to be Cheerful comes a story about the ebb and flow of female friendship over half a lifetime

Susan and Norma have been best friends for years, at first thrust...

Advance Praise

'As a comic novelist, Stibbe is so truly incomparable, I can only describe this perfect novel as Stibbe meets Stibbe, with a touch of Stibbe. (And if you love Nina Stibbe ... you’ll love this.) For as long as I could make it last, the world just felt a bit nicer. A true gift of a novel, I utterly adored it' Meg Mason

‘I started off highlighting all the brilliant observations and one-liners but had to give up because there were so many. Nina Stibbe makes being funny look easy, but that’s just because she’s very, very good at it.’ Clare Chambers

‘Nina Stibbe is not just very funny but absolutely life-affirming’ Jenny Colgan

‘Clever and funny ... As with all Stibbe’s writing there is a pleasingly perfect balance of wisdom with jokes ... I loved it’ Cathy Rentzenbrink

'For beautifully funny and well-observed comic writing, Nina Stibbe is your go-to author. In her latest release, a tale of lifelong friendship between Susan and Norma, she explores the mistakes, rivalries and love we all experience in life' Stylist


'Funny, charming, odd-in-the-best-way and gorgeously uplifting! A delight from start to finish' Marian Keyes

'Stibbe is one of the great comic writers of our time' Irish Times

'Pitch perfect vintage comedy' Guardian

'As a comic novelist, Stibbe is so truly incomparable, I can only describe this perfect novel as Stibbe meets Stibbe, with a touch of Stibbe. (And if you love Nina Stibbe ... you’ll love this.) For...

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ISBN 9780241451168
PRICE £14.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

I was thrilled to get an email offering me the chance to download this title. As always, whenever Nina has a new book it’s difficult to wait to get your hands on a physical copy. I’m not going to go into lots of plot or character here, as I think part of the thrill of reading this book is the unexpected sense of what transpires between the main characters. It has all the trademarks you’d expect from Nina Stibbe, it’s funny and ironic but also has a subversive undertone that makes it compulsive reading . Anyone that’s either had a decades old friendship or observed the interplay between two long-standing friends will enjoy the delicious relish that Nina brings to this story. I can’t wait to buy it and highlight all my favourite parts and dialogue. It’s absolutely brilliant and full of heart. #oneDayIShallAstonishTheWorld #NetGalley

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One Day I shall Astonish the World is an uplifting and funny novel taking its readers through a marriage and friendships punctuated by human tragedies as well as life’s comedy. I loved it. It is in part a campus novel that reaches into family life, friendships as well as standing as a university story during a time of change. Susan and her family live in a liminal space between Academia and the wider business world. We are given a fascinating glimpse into both. Set mostly on Rutland’s campus it begins on the cusp of the nineteen nineties and ends in 2020 as a pandemic is poised to change university life. This sharp entertaining novel contains a vivid gallery of characters, personalities I enjoyed meeting and missed asfter I turned the novel’s last pages. Roy, Susan and Norma are outstanding creations but Honey , Susan and Roy’s daughter as well as Vice chancellor Willoughby, Susan’s boss are also unique realisations. The interaction between characters is realistic and brilliantly stage- crafted revealing shocks with a deep sense of humanity as hopeful and significant as the University’s motto ‘ one Day I shall Astonish the World. ‘ This is a beautifully crafted and a perceptive novel very relevant to the particular times in which we live. It is a wonderful and hopeful story.

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The author of Reasons To Be Cheerful and Love, Nina, Nina Stibbe has long been one of the nation's funniest novelists, perfectly capturing the more eccentric aspects of British life. In this novel, she does it again as she vividly chronicles thirty years in the life of a woman as she grows from early 1990s undergraduate, into a wife, mother and ultimately a pillar of the university and some of the peculiar friendships she forms along the way.

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It's only the sixteenth of January and this has already secured itself a spot in my top ten reads of the year.

I am unashamedly an uber fan of Nina Stibbe's work. I approach each new novel with slight trepidation, wondering if she can live up to the joy the previous book gave me. The answer, with every book is YES, a thousand times, yes.

This is glorious.

Susan is the narrator. The book opens as she is navigating the tricky waters of life as the assistant to the Vice Chancellor of Rutland University during COVID. Her job established we then find out that Susan's relationship with her husband Roy is less than perfect. She hates that he won't eat vegetables and that he puts his fingers in his ears when she talks.

At this point we hop back to Susan's teenage years and her first meeting with Roy and we have a straightforward chronology back to where we began.

What is so marvellous about Stibbe as a writer is that she is so acutely observant of every day life. And she is brilliant at pinning it down and in a few, deft sentences, showing you the absurdities and the horrors of ordinary life.

There are brilliant people in this book, high fliers like Norma Pack-Allan, Susan's best friend, a high flying academic who is always jetting off around the globe and winning prizes for poetry and such like, but these are not the people who make this book such a joy.

It is the haberdashers and caterers, the grounds managers and teenagers, the people who run pet shops and the policemen who make this book soar.

And it is Stibbe, through Susan who shows us their glorious, hilarious, bleak imperfections.

Susan is such a cypher in this book. She is the one who coaches Norma from being a woman who doesn't know how to sew bust darts properly (she never learns) with a dead end Phd in sand to a glitteringly knowledgeable heroine of modern day literature, but she plods along in her estate house, with her domestic concerns jostling cheek by jowl with her fierce intellect, keeping herself small, biding her time. And like Susan, it is in the throwaway lines that Stibbe litters the book that we see the real lives of the people who we would otherwise dismiss as dull or ordinary. You leave the book knowing that you have only touched the surface of things and dying to know everyone's back story. It really seems true here that there is a novel in everyone and I would like very much for Stibbe to write them all.

I properly hooted with laughter reading this book and there are times when a single line gave me such a catch in my throat I thought I would cry. It's perfection.

I don't have enough words to praise this book. Imagine the very best of Victoria Wood, Alan Bennett and Sue Townsend and you're not even close to how great a novelist Stibbe is.

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Having enjoyed Nina Stibbe’s previous books, all thought-provoking and composed in a unique literary voice, I was delighted to be granted a free ARC from the publishers and NetGalley of her latest release. Writing that this book details the friendship between two women called Susan and Norma does not make One Day I Shall Astonish the World sound terribly exciting, but the book is so much more. Documenting the joint working life, careful acquaintance and then decade-long friendship between two fictional but so familiar-sounding women that reaches into 2020, this book touches on many interpersonal topics with great sensitivity and authenticity. It is also suffused in Stibbe’s usual wonderful sense of humour, so is well worth a read! Thank you to the publishers and to NetGalley for the free ARC that allowed me to produce this honest and unbiased review.

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I am so glad I’ve discovered this author. Having never read any of her books before, I am now ready to devour them all. Loved this book. It was like walking along in life with your comfortable friends, discussing life, the universe and everything, and not having to pretend to be something you’re not. The characters were very real and relatable, some very funny moments in the book, I laughed out loud quite often. I highly recommend this book if you want an amusing, easy to read book that you never want to end.

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A lovely funny, sharp and bittersweet reflection on life, loves and lost opportunities. There's a motley collection of characters with all the idiosyncrasies you can imagine, pulled together in a riotous thread by the wonderful Susan, who is a woman to take to your heart.

Susan reveals more than she thinks as she goes through life partly aware of what's happening around her but also blissfully ignorant of much of her surroundings.

The skill and intelligence of the author shows Susan set in a world she only partially understands while letting her reveal more to the reader than she knows herself.

Very funny, very aware and moving book from start to finish - love it.

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