I had never heard of Laurie Graham before I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy of this book. I became so engrossed in this story of a young girl, selected to keep a princess entertained, that I read it in two days, while on holiday in May.
Nellie Welche, a young girl with a distinct facial mark, is chosen to be Princess Sophia's 'humble companion'. Sophia is the twelfth child of King George III and over the years of their relationship, Nellie has an insight in to the life of the royal children and glimpses of the King's madness. The girls grow up together, with Nellie visiting Sofy and her sisters at their cold houses, returning home to work and look after her family. There is an interesting juxtaposition between Nellie's freedom and Sofy's dependence and innocence of the world.
Nellie eventually has to marry a confectioner called Jack, who she grows to become fond of, while Sofy watches as her older siblings try to find suitable matches and has her own huge secret to keep... Based on the long-running rumour of a illegitimate child, A Humble Companion also focuses on how two young ladies in very different circumstances try to find their way in life and build their own friendships and extended families with a mixture of fictional and real-life characters.
I really enjoyed this book, in particular the realistic relationships Nellie has with her husband Jack and the real love of her life Major General Thomas Garth. Graham gives a very amusing voice to Princess Sofy, particularly in her letters to Nell and this gives a fascinating insight into what may have happened during the royal family in this era. Witty, real and poignant, I look forward to discovering the author's other work.
Nellie can be followed on Twitter @nelliebuzzard