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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another gem
I love Laurie Graham's writing, especially her 'insider' novels, where a fictional observer relates real-life historical events from their privileged position inside the camp. Gone with the Windsors is one, The Importance of Being Kennedy another: this latest is set all the way back in the court of George III, and it's terrific.
Nellie Welche is our heroine - the...
Published 22 months ago by Sally

versus
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the others
I ordered this book as soon as I heard it was out, having read most of Laurie Graham's books and particularly enjoyed the ones about the Windsors and the Kennedys, also "At Sea". Graham has a talent for exposing the pretensions / dark side of people through humour which appears unintentional, making the reader smile whilst appreciating what is really happening.
Not...
Published 20 months ago by K. Cutmore


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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another gem, 10 Jun 2012
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This review is from: A Humble Companion (Hardcover)
I love Laurie Graham's writing, especially her 'insider' novels, where a fictional observer relates real-life historical events from their privileged position inside the camp. Gone with the Windsors is one, The Importance of Being Kennedy another: this latest is set all the way back in the court of George III, and it's terrific.
Nellie Welche is our heroine - the girl appointed by the Prince of Wales to be a humble companion to his sister, Sophia. As soon as we see court life from the perspective of Nellie's razor-sharp eye and wit, it becomes clear that the famous madness of King George is only one of the difficulties dogging the lives of 'the Royalties'. They're all quite bonkers, really, especially the brothers. It's such fun,for the reader. Real historical events (the French revolution, the birth of Queen Victoria - 'little Vicky Kent') are dealt with with Graham's signature light touch and great wit.
Nellie's personal life is chronicled too, and this adds poignancy to the tale, while the characters we meet along the way are brilliantly and colourfully drawn. Morphew, the coachman, is sheer genius.
Heartily recommended. And when you've read this, read the others.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing and brilliantly researched book, 16 July 2012
By 
N. J. Poston (Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Humble Companion (Hardcover)
I am a huge Laurie Graham fan, having bought one of her early books from a charity shop. I now pre-order them on Amazon. This book tells a story from a completely different perpective so that the reader feels they are learning about 'the Royalties' secrets and private lives as though peering through the keyhole. As other reviews have said, they all sound totally barking, other than Nellie, who is the only really sane person in the whole saga. Not as laugh-out-loud as some of her books, but it has both sad and amusing parts. A brilliant read. If you like this book, you can find her other books on Amazon. Well worth the effort. I particularly recommend The Dress Circle.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting voice, 19 Aug 2012
This review is from: A Humble Companion (Hardcover)
I'm a fan of Laurie Graham's books (with the exception of Gone With the Windsors). When I started this one I was a little doubtful and nearly abandoned it a few chapters into the story. I'm so glad I didn't. Nellie's voice becomes addictive; her commentary on the Royal Family is witty and clever, but beyond that, her descriptions of the non-royal characters is wonderful. As another reviewer remarked, the Welches' servant, Morphew, is a gem. I shared all their joys and sorrows with Nellie and mourned their deaths with her (if I have one complaint about this book, it is that there are a lot of deaths!). When I reached the final pages I was depressed to think I'd never hear Nellie's voice again - it was as if an old friend had stopped calling. Definitely a book to buy if you enjoy good narration.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tale of a friendship, 20 July 2012
This review is from: A Humble Companion (Hardcover)
What interested me about this novel in particular was the era it dealt with, as the Hanoverian George's are some of the kings in British history I'm least familiar with. To say that I now know lots more about them, would be an exaggeration, but what I did learn more about is the life of Georgian princesses and how limited, lonely and none too happy their life was.

The life the daughters of King George III led wasn't even close to how you'd imagine a princess' life to be: no endless parties, gorgeous clothes, stunning palaces and princes vying for their hands in marriage. Instead, they lived lives of relative simplicity, restricted in their movements and ruled with an iron hand by their mother, Queen Charlotte, and weren't allowed to marry until they were almost middle-aged. Graham sketches a sad life for her princesses, which despite its security in regards to the necessities of life - food, clothes, shelter - seems to have been a lot less happy than that of their father's subjects. Nellie, the daughter of a successful tradesman who's risen to become steward for the Prince of Wales, seems to be far happier and more free than Sophie could ever dream to be, even if she had been able to escape the clutches of her mother through marriage.

The narrator of the story is Nellie Welche, only child of the Prince of Wales' steward. A smart and surprisingly educated girl, who is cherished by her parents, Nellie has one physical feature that sets her apart, a port-wine stain across one side of her face. Nellie is used to people staring at her because of it, but she never comes across as ashamed of it or insecure because of it. I loved Nellie's tone of voice. She's irreverent, acerbic, humorous and a keen observer, but she is also wise and has a kind heart. I loved the way she lost her awe of the 'Royalties', as she calls them, and sees through their foibles and eccentricities to their humanity. She's very loyal to Sophie, while at the same time very well aware of what she will and won't accept from her. She values their friendship, but isn't afraid to lose her place as Humble Companion and thus tells Sofy truths others won't, something Sophie doesn't always appreciate.

We follow Nellie from about her twelfth year until her death and during this we meet not just most of the royal family, we also meet Nellie's family: her Dutch/German-descended parents, their cook, their manservant, Morphew, who stays with Nellie when she gets married. And later we meet her husband, the orphans they take in and their families. I loved the contrast between Nellie's world which is open and industrious and Sofy's shuttered and insulated existence within the walls of the different royal houses she occupies. The different characters Graham creates for the non-royals in her book are lovely and diverse and I really enjoyed the glimpses of Nellie's life we got. These were far fewer than I would have liked, because in the end this is as much or more Sofy's story as it is Nellie's and most of Nellie's narration focuses on her interactions with Sofy.

And that would be my biggest complaint: Sofy. For most of the narrative she remains rather flat; she is a mousy, quiet girl, snowed under by the stronger personalities of her sisters and it's not quite clear why she'd deserve such devotion from Nellie. Only once we get halfway through the book does she show a more developed spark of personality. At the same time, this is also the point where the friendship between the two becomes quite strained by circumstances best not revealed so as not to spoil the story, so it also means a shift in the relationship. It is only by the end of the book that they truly seem equal in friendship, if not in station, then in feeling and devotion. When going out they seem like any other set of old, grey ladies, albeit that one of them is a little strange in the ways of the real world. The scenes were Sophie finally visits Nellie's house and the confectionery shop she runs with her husband, Jack, were lovely and some of my favourites in the book.

Another recurring thread throughout the story is Nellie's love of writing and her wish to become a published author. The flames of this desire only get fanned when she meets Fanny Burney, one of the first female novelists and attendant to Queen Charlotte. The scenes she and Nellie share are just wonderful and she seems to speak not just to Nellie, but to any budding author. Nellie eventually gets her wish and becomes a published author. But in the end, it seems her greatest writing wasn't to be her fiction, but the commitment to paper of her memories of a princess, her princess, Sofy, Her Royal Highness The Princess Sophia.

A Humble Companion is the tale of a friendship between two unlikely girls. It is a story of loyalty, secrets and the strength of character of its narrator. I found it compelling reading, because of Nellie's wonderful voice and, not least, because of Graham's smooth writing and the fascinating look at the late Hanoverian period. If you enjoy historical fiction centred on royalty or set in British history, A Humble Companion is a book well worth reading.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the others, 19 Aug 2012
By 
K. Cutmore (Colchester, Essex, UK) - See all my reviews
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I ordered this book as soon as I heard it was out, having read most of Laurie Graham's books and particularly enjoyed the ones about the Windsors and the Kennedys, also "At Sea". Graham has a talent for exposing the pretensions / dark side of people through humour which appears unintentional, making the reader smile whilst appreciating what is really happening.
Not so, I felt, with this book - there wasn't much humour and at times it was rather like reading a history textbook, full of facts and data. I read it through but finished it with rather a sense of relief.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Humble Companion, 9 July 2012
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This review is from: A Humble Companion (Hardcover)
A excellent read, very well written few surprises. Wish Graham would give us more of her original titles, which were so funny I could read them all over and over and still enjoy
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a triumph, 12 July 2012
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As I expected, Laurie Graham delivered a great tale once again.

I wasn't au fait with the minutiae of this particular period in history as it never appealed, but she managed to grab my attention and awaken my interest. What a shower! It's Dallas without the shoulder pads. A proper nutty family with constant in-fighting, which our Humble Companion Nellie is privy to and able to relay to the reader so that you actually feel like you're eavesdropping. Scandals galore, jealousy, madness ... yes, the Royalties had it all!

I loved all the historical detail from a "mere" commoner's perspective, cleverly intertwined with Nellie's own family life. While I had a bare knowledge of the period, most of the detail was a complete surprise so all the more entertaining. Mind you, I had an in-depth knowledge of the Windsors and the Kennedys but that didn't spoil her earlier "insider" novels for me so if you're an expert, don't be put off.

I didn't find it quite so laugh out loud as her earlier books, but that was in no way detrimental to this book. It was still highly amusing - and the comic timing was spot on as usual.

Laurie Graham's trademark way of telling a real life story through a fictional character is genius - the only negative comment I'd make is: wish I'd thought of it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Humble Companion, 21 Mar 2014
By 
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Humble Companion (Paperback)
A warm and witty novel, this tells the story of Nellie Welche, whose father was Comptroller to the Prince of Wales (future King George IV) and who was Humble Companion to his young sister Princess Sophia. Born in 1777, and dying in 1848, Sophia was one of six daughters of King George III and Queen Charlotte. Brought up in a home with a restricted routine and stifled atmosphere, the many princesses longed for freedom, marriage and a `normal' life. But only a few of them ever married, and Sophia was not among them. There was scandal in her life that she had borne an illegitimate child, possibly even to one of her brothers, but there has never been any evidence to confirm this as fact. In this novel, the whole sorry story is dealt with sympathetically and viably.

The character of Nellie takes us from her life as a young child to a young woman to a wife, and moves beween her ordinary life and her life as a sometime Humble Companion in the royal court very smoothly and pleasantly. The story she weaves is told with wit and empathy; a lady of no nonsense, she nevertheless has a great charm and warmth which comes across in the story she tells for us after Sophia's death.

This was a really delightful read, and is highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!, 19 Aug 2013
By 
Madeleine C-W (Guernsey, Channel Islands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Humble Companion (Hardcover)
This was my introduction to Laurie Graham and I thoroughly enjoyed this (am interested in history which is what drew me to this book). Her style is infectious and her research thorough; I read the Importance of being Kennedy afterwards which was also excellent; You come away having learnt more about the period without it seeming like a history lesson (in both books) Can't wait for her next!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wanted more of what made Sophy tick., 7 Oct 2012
This review is from: A Humble Companion (Hardcover)
Good book, but I suppose I was looking for more Princess Sophia and her relationships with her family - particularly her brothers as one was involved in a very serious event in her life.
There was a reason why her family and attendants adored her and found her an engaging person. She shouldn't have come across as a shadowy character as she comes across sometimes in the book.
I would have liked more information about the Royal family.
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A Humble Companion
A Humble Companion by Laurie Graham (Paperback - 29 Aug 2013)
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