Perhaps you’re already aware of Laurie Graham. It’s entirely possible being the inquisitive reader you are. But then again, I get the feeling she’s something of a well-kept secret. Ms Graham seems to have had a chequered career - the 12 books on her website (4 of which I’ve now read) were published by two major UK publishers; HarperPerennial and, more recently, Quercus.
All good, but the result is a disconcerting mix of cover styles that suggest no one’s quite sure how best to attract a readership. Latterly, Quercus have experimented with a quirky cartoon style – which caught the mood of Life According to Lubka and All at Sea – but not quite the laugh out loud humour within.
It’s interesting to see the hardback cover of A Humble Companion, published last month and which I’ve just finished. It’s one of those ‘headless woman’ covers but the dress and the posture is the focus. A fulsome white lacey Georgian number is worn with elegant style by a woman of indeterminate age disported on a richly ornate settee.
Our narrator Nellie Welche is humble companion to Princess Sophia, one of George III's enormous brood of children. And her ‘memoir’ of the lies and intrigues, the foibles and frailties of royalty gradually drags you in so that you race to the end. Along the way you have a ringside seat for the significant events of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: George III descending into madness, the first rumblings of revolution in France and the emergence of Victoria as the House of Hanover falls apart.
Lubka (think of those singing Russian grannies in the Eurovision song contest) and All at Sea were romps; this is more a birth to death with all the warts, reminiscent of The Unfortunates in its saga followed over decades.
If you haven’t tried Laurie Graham’s work then can I twist your arm ever so slightly and suggest now is a very good time to do so.