greathusband“It was just as well I had ripped off my Ear Correcting Bandages.  Had I been bound up in my usual bedtime torture-wear, I would never have heard my mother’s screams.”

Poppy Minkel comes of age in the last years of the Great War, her father having died aboard the Titanic.  She is from the great Minkel Mustard family and partial heiress to a fantastic mustard fortune.  And her mother and aunt would like to see nothing less than her married off safely.  But Poppy has other plans.  She longs to go on adventures and be a self-defined and independent woman like her spinster aunt.  She joins the war effort and meets other independent women and begins a life filled with rebellion, fashion, self-indulgence and love, flitting from one whim to the next.  The trouble is, will Poppy ever recognize what wonderful familial roots she already has before it’s too late?

This story of Poppy within the story of American history through the years is at once both hilarious and depressing.  On the one side of the spectrum, Poppy is a vibrantly vivacious character – never stopping and never stopped by anything in her way.  She simply does precisely what she wants, whether it’s learning to drive and fly or opening a boutique in Paris.  She never quite grows up, or even recognizes that she has responsibilities.  This is the other half – she never realizes the wonderful things she has.  She alienates her own children to the point of infurating the reader, leaving her daughters to be raised by their aunt and grandmother.  She uses and discards people without even realizing it.  There were points in this novel I wanted to reach through the barrier of fiction and slap her in the face.

As for the writing, Graham has created a fantastic voice for Poppy.  You can’t help but continue reading, despite the antics of Poppy and those she surrounds herself with.  A subtly dark humor pervades every page and keeps you rigidly on the border between rollicking laughter and outraged horror.  I’m not sure if I’m ready for another of Graham’s books, but I definitely want to read them at some point.

“The Great Husband Hunt” was written by Laurie Graham and published in 2002.