||Poppy Minkel is the daisy fresh, naively witty star of Laurie Graham's The Unfortunates. Poppy is a mustard heiress with crinkle-cut hair, sticky-out ears and a nutty Jewish family. When Pa goes down with the Titanic, Ma decides Poppy was destined to be the companion of her old age. Instead Thoroughly Modern Poppy, blessed with 'savoir faire and unusual beauty' sashays into 1920s New York in search of generation-defining moments.
In a series of flashbulb-bright adventures Ms. Minkel acquires two husbands, two children, and a variety of breathless accomplishments--designer, aviatrix, gallerista. Poppy Minkel is determined to live up to her mantra: 'I'm modern and fun-loving and rich.' It's not all ditzy fun though, Poppy may glide along the surface of things admirably, but Laurie Graham's deft prose gets to the heart of things. The loss, grief, ignorance, and emotional vulnerbality that surround the events of the Second World War play in devasating counterpoint to Poppy's self-centred aplomb. Her breezy resilence allows her to deal with a drunken, violent first husband, with his haikus and his "glancing blows" and pretty much ignore anything else of consequence. It's only towards the end of the novel when faced with family tragedy that her regret slips in and "placed the heaviest weight around my heart". The Unfortunates is deliciously Nancy Mitford,--glinting with irony, sadness and humour.