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“She’s an extraordinary cartoonist. In the collected volumes that I’ve got there are places where she does some ingenious things with storytelling and characterization. The pity of it is that the vast majority of people who like to think of themselves as comic fans… will never do themselves the favour of picking it up and getting a decent education in graphic narrative.”
Alan Moore

“Posy Simmonds is simply one of the world’s most sophisticated contemporary cartoonists expanding the scope and subtlety of the graphic novel.”
Paul Gravett

Don’t be fooled by Posy Simmonds’ (1945 - ) demure appearance and plummy voice. Her powers of observation are laser-sharp, her mimicry of accents and types cruelly precise. For years, hardly anybody outside of Britain had heard of Posy Simmonds unless they read her weekly Guardian social satires or the occasional book collections. But all that’s changed with the tragic leading beauties of her very English murder-mystery graphic novels, Gemma Bovery and Tamara Drewe, widely translated and internationally acclaimed. “Gemma’s dream was to live this rustic, simple life in France and somehow the very goodness of it would rub off on her and she’d be fulfilled. And of course she gets as bored as anything because life isn’t like that and Normandy is the piss-pot of France. So she has adventures, particularly with a young French aristocrat who is also fairly dim and shallow but has his own romantic thing about him.” Complicating her life further is a secret, infatuated local who is convinced that Gemma will come to the same sad end as her namesake, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Tamara fares little better after turning an English village’s surface calm into a maelstorm of passions. Riddled with class clashes and repressed desires, Posy’s comics are quintessentially English.

Essential Reading:

Tamara Drewe
Jonathan Cape, 2007

Tamara Drewe has transformed herself. Plastic surgery, a different wardrobe, a smouldering look, have given her confidence and a new and thrilling power to attract, which she uses recklessly. Often just for the fun of it. People are drawn to Tamara Drewe, male and female. In the remote village where her late mother lived Tamara arrives to clear up the house. Here she becomes an object of lust, of envy, the focus of unrequited love, a seductress. To the village teenagers she is ‘plastic-fantastic’, a role model. Ultimately, when her hot and indiscriminate glances lead to tragedy, she is seen as a man-eater, a heartless marriage wrecker, a slut.

Gemma Bovery
Jonathan Cape, 1999

Gemma is the bored, pretty second wife of Charlie Bovery, the reluctant stepmother of his children and the béte-noire of his ex-wife. Gemma’s sudden windfall and distaste for London take them across the Channel to Normandy, where the charms of French country living soon wear off. Is it a coincidence that Gemma Bovery has a name rather like Flaubert’s notorious heroine? Is it by chance that, like Madame Bovary, Gemma is bored, adulterous and a bad credit risk? These questions consume Gemma’s neighbour, the intellectual baker, Joubert. With the help of the heroine’s diaries, Joubert follows her road to ruin.

Paul Gravett says:
Designed in an unusual vertical format across three columns for the Guardian newspaper, Simmonds’ innovative layouts integrate her comics with blocks of novelistic prose, journals, letters, clippings, and other graphic devices, making the whole dense and multi-voiced, and yet always clear and elegant.

Chris Ware says:
In America, newspaper comics have become pretty watered down, aimed at a level of literacy that I’m sometimes not even sure is detectable, but in the United Kingdom, the success of Posy Simmonds’ Gemma Bovery in The Guardian has demonstrated that comics are a viable means of presenting something a little more subtle.

Posy Simmonds says:
I first read Madame Bovary when I was 13 or 14. I’ve read it twice since then. I decided to use it after I saw a woman on holiday in Italy. She was young, very pretty, and was giving this guy such a hard time by yawning. She looked desperate, surrounded by Prada shoe bags, and she reminded me of Madame Bovary.

Literary Life
Jonathan Cape, 2003

Literary Life is a collection of one-page strips, which first appeared in The Guardian’s Review section on Saturdays between November 2002 until December 2004, and two short stories, Murder at Matabele Mansions and Cinderella. Posy examines the pretensions of the literary world with her customary flair for light, witty satire and social observation. Women writers suffer ‘Rustic Block’ after moving to the countryside, type their sexual fantasies into their laptop, and juggle the dilemmas of feminism and motherhood. Male authors are shown suffering the ego-perils of coming into contact with the public at book signings, and complain about reviewers and ‘media hoops’. Jealousies and rivalries emerge out of reading groups; struggling small booksellers have to deal with recalcitrant customers or sales reps pushing the latest celebrity book. Simmonds’ penchant for literary pastiche and parody is given full rein.



Tamara Drewe (2007)
Literary Life (2003)
Gemma Bovery (1999)
Mustn’t Grumble (1993)
Pure Posy (1987)
Very Posy (1985)
Pick Of Posy (1982)
True Love (1981)
Mrs Weber’s Diary (1979)

For Children:
Baker Cat (2004)
Lavender (2003)
Mr Frost (2001) in Little Litt #2
Cautionary Tales And Other Verses (1997)
F-Freezing ABC (1996)
Matilda: Who Told Lies and Was Burned To Death (1991)
The Chocolate Wedding (1990)
Lulu And The Flying Babies (1988)
Fred (1987)
Bouncing Buffalo (1984)

Famous Fred (1996)
Tresoddit for Easter, BBC 2 (1991)

The Comics Journal #286


Online Resources:
Paul Gravett’s Articles
Literary Life Archive
Guardian: Looking Back At Posy

Eddie Campbell: True Love

Little Lit
Random House / Johnathan Cape


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