The Liar’s Daughter

Written by Laurie Graham
Review by Sally Zigmond

The “father” in question is Lord Nelson—or is he? Here, the first daughter of the title is Nan, whose mother claims to have been a rare female who served aboard Navy vessels, stitching sails and dressing battle wounds, culminating by serving in the Victory. But she is a notorious drunk, a former prostitute, the details of whose anecdotes and beliefs change like the wind, although the central core never changes. Her own daughter, Pru, begins her life with a more sceptical nature. However, because she longs to know the truth about her origins, she begins to probe into the truth which dominates her life although she is a highly intelligent woman and who, somewhat anachronistically, pursues a medical career.

This is where I lay my cards on the table. Laurie Graham has published several applauded 20th-century historical novels, but she has been venturing further back in history, and I am not convinced of her accurate knowledge of the history here. This novel, to me, is also tedious and over-long without any real plot. First Nan, and then Pru, pursues the possibilities of their “Nelson” connection, which makes the novel too long with too many characters and viewpoints for me to latch on to.

I assume that Laurie Graham’s aims as the novel began were to explore the nature of hero-worship and how unmarried pregnancy, without today’s DNA-testing, could hide a multitude of sins. If you are already a fan of Laurie Graham’s work, you will enjoy it, but it does not convince me, I’m afraid.