Humble Companion by Laurie Graham (Quercus)
As a kind of social experiment, Nellie Welche is brought in to be a companion
to Princess Sophia, one of the 15 children of King George III.
Through years of spending time within the heart of the royal family, not a
family member but also not quite a servant, Nellie is able to see into the
darkest recesses of the family and its secrets.
Although herself not from a
poverty-stricken home, Nellie is used to having to make do. She arrives at the
palace dressed in a plain cotton dress, cementing her role as the voice of the
outsider not coddled in the stifling care that oppresses the personal desires
and dreams of her royal friends.
Laurie Graham’s detailed research pays off
in a confident sweep of fact, woven with dramatic flair into a page-turning
While Nellie is brought in to bring a touch of the common folk to the rarefied
privilege of palace life, she is not left untouched by a glimpse into this
different – and sometimes unpleasant world. These personal struggles take place
against the background of a country facing the crisis of a king battling mental
illness and losing his perspective on matters of state.
The powerlessness of women of high birth in
the 18th century is a moving theme that comes through: while Sofy
and her royal sisters face potentially unpleasant political marriage options,
Nellie must also accept that it may not be possible to marry where her heart
Ultimately this is a well-told and very human tale of friends from two
different worlds who find a connection that changes both their lives.
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