After cutting her teeth in the sixties as cartoonist for several British newspapers, the satiric wit of Posy Simmonds flourished proper within the pages of the Guardian. After several published strip collections, the 1999 publication of Gemma Bovery proved testimony to her observational genius (particularly of the middle class), a feat she repeated with 2007’s Tamara Drewe. Simultaneously, Simmonds turned her talents to children’s publishing – notably her story of the world’s most famous cat, Fred – and after an absence of a decade returned back to her well-heeled hunting ground for 2018’s razor-sharp Christmas fable, Cassandra Darke.
Cassandra Darke is rich, selfish and resolutely unrepentant. Growing old, her world of misanthropic isolation is abruptly cracked open as her art dealer past catches up with her. The additional follies of her lodger Nicki open dark doors which push Cassandra even further into the real world, all recorded by Posy Simmonds’ typically brilliant observational pencil. Murder, fraud and one very stubborn art world grandee all make for a Christmas fable like no other.
Favourably compared with Austen, Elliot and, most frequently, Thomas Hardy (upon whose work her own books are closely modelled), Posy Simmonds is an astute modern satirist, using a blend of words and pictures to successfully send-up and lambast the small-minded prurience of the British middle-classes.
Born in 1945 in Berkshire, Simmonds drew from an early age and studied at the Sorbonne before entering the world of print journalism with a daily cartoon for The Sun, moving on to work with The Times, Cosmopolitan. Her work with The Guardian, with whom she has been affiliated since the early 1970's, began with The Silent Three about middle-aged nurse Wendy Weber and her sociology lecturer husband George (the strips are collected in Mrs Weber’s Omnibus).
Children’s Books and Illustration
In the 1980's Simmonds began writing and illustrating children’s books including an array of characterful cats. There is Fred, the story of an ordinary, very lazy cat who after dark takes on an alternative persona as the Elvis of the cat world and Baker Cat, the story of a cat and mouse collaborative conspiracy.
Far From the ‘It’ Crowd
Her social commentary really found its full force however in Tamara Drewe, based on Far From the Madding Crowd it portrayed an astonishingly broad, often hilarious survey of village parochialism which ran to 109 episodes. The series drew universal praise with one critic declaring, ‘There is nothing in Hardy... which more grimly conveys the paralysis of lesser rural life than her pictures of Casey and Jody at the old bus shelter.’
One of life’s spectators, Simmonds is an expert observer on the minutiae of everyday life, happiest on the periphery where she says she frequently sees herself as "invisible, which is very useful. People say things in front of you as though you're not there."