Catholic illustrator whose work has been displayed in Tate Modern says novel was inspired by prayer
A new graphic novel features Adoration, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and even God the Father.
Please God, Find Me A Husband!, published by Jonathan Cape, is an autobiographical story by Catholic artist Simone Lia, that chronicles her search for a husband. In the book she stays with nuns, meets Jesus and prays before the Blessed Sacrament.
The story begins with Miss Lia wandering around central London having just been dumped by her boyfriend, via email. She has an epiphany in which she cries out: “To cut to the chase, God, I’m going to be 34 in two weeks’ time and if you want me to marry someone you’re going to need to get a bit of a move on.”
In her quest for a man she looks at aspects of her faith, stays with nuns in Wales, and meets a Carmelite hermit, before heading off to Australia where she meets a horseriding instructor.
Simone Lia said: “It’s autobiographical and embarrassing, but if you change your name it loses its weight. I also drew myself in a silly way, to make it unflattering.”
A graduate of the University of Brighton, Miss Lia began drawing at the age of 13 and has had artwork in the Tate Britain, as well as writing the highly acclaimed graphic novel Fluffy.
Her latest book came about after she was “suddenly inspired” three years after her last graphic novel. She said: “It was just a moment in prayer when you just think, I need to go on an adventure with God, I saw all the pages flicking before me.”
Graphic novels with such an explicit religious theme are very unusual and the author said she had concerns about how it might be treated.
“I thought it’s taking a big risk because I know people are quite anti-Catholic. It’s a cultural thing that goes far back,” she said.
“But it’s also fashionable to be an atheist, especially in the comics industry, which is aimed at a young, metropolitan demographic, and rarely touches on religion in a positive way.
“I think by accident I’ve done something quite rebellious.”
A review in the Guardian has called the book “inquiring and funny, but never hectoring” and “heart-stoppingly neat and expressive”.
The review said the author managed to present the story of a Catholic looking for love without looking “repulsively pious”. The book features a scene over several pages in which Miss Lia prays in church and says “Adoration was my favourite time – kneeling or sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament, talking and listening to God.”
Miss Lia said her publisher had told her the original idea had no commercial potential when she told them she was going to stay in a convent for a couple of weeks but once presented with the finished product they said they loved it.
“Maybe other people can relate to it, and not just single Christian women. I really hope that people who don’t have faith will read it and enjoy it.
“It isn’t about finding a husband but about doing God’s will. I’m not married and I haven’t met anyone but I have freedom now. That’s where my happiness is.”
The book features several Catholic characters, such as Sister Mary Trinity, a trusted friend who has had many near-death experiences, a hermit called Fr Paul, Zacchaeus the tax collector and Jesus and God the Father, with whom Simone has a very personal relationship in the book.
The author said her depiction of God the Father is probably based on her granddad. “He was always there, always loving,” she said.