At last! A funny modern novel. Well, that’s not strictly true. I discovered Laurie Graham a few years ago, having picked up a second hand copy of The Unfortunates, followed swiftly by The Future Homemakers of America. They were unusual books, set in America and the UK, so much so that I believed that Graham was American. She wrote a fascinating novel about the Kennedy dynasty, The Importance of being Kennedy from the point of view of an English Nanny, and the great Windsor scandal Gone with the Windsors. These books seemed historically accurate, but were essentially novels, written from the point of view of friends with all the limitations of a side view of events. And above all, they were funny. Maybe not laugh out loud, but with insights, asides and humanity that made them enjoyable and absorbing reads.
So I duly bought Life according to Lubka. It disappeared to the unofficial library of daughter’s flat, and hasn’t been seen since. So when I spotted At Sea in the wonderful local library opposite the house, I pounced and eagerly started to read before that copy disappeared. Yet again this is a novel with an unexpected transatlantic element and is very readable. An English Lady has met and married a cruise ship lecturer in interesting circumstances, and now begins to suspect that his demanding behaviour suggests that he is not all that he seems. I’ve never been on a cruise (a choppy crossing to the Isle of Man doesn’t count, even if it felt endless), but this novel seemed very realistic in its tourist attractions, real characters and convoluted progress. Lady Enid is gradually transformed, and transforms herself against the background of her dubious husband and batty aristocratic family. Americans shop whenever and wherever, the flirtatious chaplain does a mean foxtrot, and Bernard’s behaviour becomes more outrageous.
So, the moral of this post is, if you see a Laurie Graham book going secondhand or indeed on offer, read it and you will be hooked. You will also learn some strange American history and perspectives, with a very unusual sense of humour. Read before they disappear….