Tag Archives: Mapp & Lucia

Queen Lucia – E.F. Benson

There are some series you get recommended by several people and simply have to read and the ‘Mapp and Lucia’ series by E.F. Benson has been one that has been recommended to me from bloggers (Elaine at Random Jottings and Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book I am looking at you) through to some friends and also even a celebrity (Julian Clary, no really) as one that I would adore. No pressure then. Thanks to the lovely Novel Insights I received the whole set for my birthday, in the wonderful retro 1980’s editions, as you know I have to read things in order. So I started with ‘Queen Lucia’ which came with a wondeful quote from none other than Nancy Mitford…

As ‘Queen Lucia’ opens we meet the title character, real name Mrs Emmeline Lucas, as she rejects the fly that her husband Peppino has sent for her and send it home with just her luggage in it in order to cause some gossip and wonderment through the village of Riseholme something as self proclaimed ‘Queen’ of the area she feels it is only befitting to do. E. F. Benson instantly gets us acquainted with the type of woman we are dealing with just from this opener and as the book goes on we learn just how Lucia tries to say queen when others decide they might want to usurp her role.

Two such characters are the ‘globe like’ Daisy Quantock and Lucia’s very own right hand man Georgie Pillson who both have things Lucia wants and could use them in becoming the most popular people in town which would never do. Daisy Quantock has the mysterious Indian Guru staying with her which is the talk of the village (it reads as slightly un-pc by today’s standards but written in the 1920’s and set very much in that era, people did have such prejudices, mind you George Pillson toupee is just as much talk of the town) and Georgie also has the most desirable friendship of Olga Bracely much to Lucia’s vexation. We watch on as the whole town bids to outdo one another and raise supreme, to most comical turns, whilst still looking like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths. It’s very, very funny stuff.

I imagine that Lucia herself being such a strong character could make a reader either love her or loathe her. She is a caricature of a certain type of society in her day but on occasion the sudden turn of speaking Italian to anyone and everyone, whether they understand or not, or babyish discussions with ‘Naughty’ Georgie could really grate I imagine as the first few times I read it I was rather unsure of it. However I was completely won over, in the main by the flamboyancy of the characters and just how funny E. F. Benson’s writing is and the situations he puts these people into. Despite the fact some of it is quite ludicrous you could imagine in those days people getting up to just such japes at the vexation of others. Some may also be tempted to call it twee but the dry humour throughout stops it from ever falling to far into that style.

“’Yesterday morning I was in Rush’s,’ said Georgie, ‘seeing about some crème de menthe, which ought to have been sent the day before – Rush is very negligent sometimes – and I was just saying a sharp word about it, when suddenly I saw that Rush was not attending at all, but was looking at something behind my back, and so I looked round. Guess!’
‘Don’t be tantalising, amico,’ said she. ‘How can I guess? A pink elephant with blue spots!’
‘No, guess again!’
‘A red Indian in full war paint?’
‘Certainly not! Guess again,’ said Georgie, with a little sigh of relief. (It would have been awful if she had guessed.) At this moment Peppino suddenly became aware that Lucia had guessed and was upto some game.”

I am really pleased I finally gave this series a whirl as I have a feeling that it, and of course its wonderful cast of characters, is just going to get better and better and possibly even barmier.  I look forward to seeing what lengths they all go to next and what E F. Benson throws at them. It’s actually a real shame that apart from the omnibus editions and the solo ‘Mapp and Lucia’ these books aren’t available individually in stores. But you can find them on certain websites for a bargain and I suggest you give them a try. 8.5/10

Savidge suggests some perfect prose partners;

Henrietta’s War – Joyce Dennys (I haven’t laughed so much at a book as I did this one, a wonderful depiction of wartime village life)
Peyton Place – Grace Metalious (if you like a book with a cast of characters and all that goes on behind their closed doors I don’t think you could do better) 

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Filed under E. F. Benson, Review, Transworld Publishing

Simon’s Bookish Bits #17

I find myself saying this every week, but thank goodness it’s the weekend again! Last week was deadline week (how do months go so quickly) and so after a good few days of ridiculously late nights and the madness of updating my entire computer at the same time I am really rather shattered which is why I am so thrilled that this weekend has not a single commitment in it, not even Highgate. In fact really this weekend is all about me and books as I am planning my own little hidden away book binge retreat.

As you read this I will be holed up in my room with cups of tea, or out in the park in a secret sunny spot reading away until my hearts content with a picnic to hand. What’s doubly exciting about that is that I have no idea what I am going to choose although I suspect that one of these could be somewhere in the mix…

It’s the entire ‘Mapp and Lucia’ series by E. F Benson which the lovely Novel Insights got me for my birthday (along with a Wizard of Oz tea towel, so I have been really spoilt) which she hadn’t managed to get to me until we had an emergency ‘we must see each other right now’ coffee at the start of the week. I am beyond thrilled with this set as I have been coveting it and its delightful covers for ages. And this print run has the most wonderful covers, here’s the first two of the series to illustrate…

I am fairly inclined to think that what lies in the pages inside is just as delightful as the cover and ‘Queen Lucia’ will be put to the test very soon.  I must try not to over hype it all in my head before I read it though, I am very good at that on occasion and then any disappointment is all my own doing.

I am also going to be doing some plotting and planning this weekend. I am not leaving the blogosphere, but I do need to look more at why and what I am blogging. I mentioned this in my Contemporary vs. Classic post, I feel I have lost my original direction and intentions for the blog so maybe a revamp and a new direction are called for, all good food for thought (if anything goes missing or a bit awry over the next few days do bear with it).  I don’t know why but something in the air tells me that something needs to give or change a bit.

It’s also in part to just how muc more busy I have suddenly got. What with all my work commitments (I just got another small promotion and a new freelance contract), setting up a second home and second life in Brazil (6 months here, 6 months there and no more winters is the plan) an big writing project and trying to have some sort of social life I have been finding it harder both to blog and to pop to everyone’s blog. I spent about three hours trying to catch up on four days of other peoples posts last night and most of it was reading and lurking rather than commenting so much. Its all about time management and having fun, fun, fun – not that fun should be managed. So the thinking cap on and one of (the far too many that I bought in Paperchase this week) my notebooks will be by my side at all reading points this weekend for brainwaves should they appear. Any constructive suggestions and thoughts welcomed of course.

Right, time for the main reason I love this Bookish Bits posts, no not the fact I get to waffle about little bits on the bookish brain etc, the bit where I hand over to you all for tales of what you have all been reading, coveting, not loving so much and recommending from your bookish week, and what you are all doing over the weekend. So I will hand over to you and yours and all you’re latest without further ado.

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Filed under Simon's Bookish Bits