This week’s BotW is the new Laurie Graham, which managed to sneak into the world without me noticing. At least I noticed it just after it was released, so I’m only posting this 12 days after release. Anyway, regular readers of this blog will be aware of my long-standing love for Laurie Graham’s books. Gone with the Windsors is one of my all-time favourites – and I consider it (and her) an under-appreciated gem. Her last book, The Early Birds was a Reccommendsday pick last year and The Grand Duchess of Nowhere was one of the first books that I reviewed for Novelicious back in the day. I have most of her books as actual books and they live on my downstairs bookshelf (for easy access) and I have all the ones I don’t have physical copies of on ebook. And a couple of them as both. I even have two paperback copies of Gone with the Windsors. Ahem.
Anyway, at the start of Anyone for Seconds, former TV chef Lizzie Partridge runs away from home in a desperate bid for sympathy and attention. She’s fed up of her life – she’s the wrong side of sixty and ever since she lost her TV gig, after throwing chocolate mousse at the presenter of Midlands This Morning, nothing seems to have gone her way. Her partner has left her, her mother is driving her mad, she doesn’t seem to ahve anything in common with her high-power lawyer daughter – and now her last bit of work (a magazine cookery column) has been axed as well. Over the course of her wet week in off-season Aberystwyth, she has a bit of an epiphany and starts to think there might be a new future in the offing. Then her nephew’s TV producer girlfriend comes up with the idea of reuniting her with her former nemesis for a new TV show. Is Lizzie’s life looking up?
Lizzie’s earlier adventures, leading up to the infamous mousse incident, are the subject of one of Graham’s earlier books, Perfect Meringues, which came out 21 years ago. Those days were the tail end of the era when local TV news could make you into a big star – my local bulletin used to have its own chef, who I think did a good line in cookery demonstrations to WIs across the East of England At any rate I’m fairly sure one (maybe two) of the recipes I copied out of my mum’s cookbook when I was first getting into cooking came from one he did for the Northampton Federation. And pretty much every year at panto season you’ll spot a semi-familiar face on a poster who’s still managing to live off their local TV fame of yesteryear. And this makes Lizzie and her friend Louie’s adventures terribly believable and very, very funny.
I read this book as my treat for my weekend working train journeys and it was an absolute delight. Graham has a brilliant eye for the ridiculous and manages to skewer this sort of fading fame very well. And Lizzie’s inner voice is pure Graham – funny, dark, sarcastic and with an observant eye on others, but not as much self-awareness as she thinks. I could have read pages more of the exploits of Lizzie and her friends – there are definitely a few things left not as resolved as I could have wanted. There aren’t enough books with leading ladies who are over 60, and Lizzie is definitely not a fading old lady in a twinset and pearls. She’s spunky and fun and not done with life and love yet – and anyway she hasn’t got a bank balance to sit back and retire. And even if she had, her mother wouldn’t let her and, after all what would she do – her daughter doesn’t want Lizzie’s help as she raises her gender-neutral, sugar-free future genius son. This was perfect book to beat my end of summer blues.
My copy of Anyone for Seconds came from NetGalley, but it’s out now in hardback, Kindle and Kobo. I have no idea how easy it will be to find in bookshops – but you should be able to order it and I definitely encourage you to check out Graham’s books. If you want to read Perfect Meringues first, it’s on Kindle and Kobo for £3.99 which seems to be about the standard price for all of Graham’s books at the moment – except for this new one.