Monday, 24 November 2014

Guest Book Review: E.F. Benson - Mapp & Lucia

Reviewed by Sarah Brew

The arrival of the snobbish Mrs Emmeline Lucas (know as Lucia to her friends) to the small seaside town of Tilling causes waves as she threatens the queen bee of Tilling's social circle, Miss Elizabeth Mapp. Against a backdrop of genteel tea parties and bridge evenings a series of hilarious conflicts ensue between the two power-hungry women as they battle on the social stage to gain the ultimate place as the first lady of society.

This edition includes three of E. F Benson's satirical stories of inter-war Britain: Mapp and Lucia, Queen Lucia and Miss Mapp.

Amazon links: Kindle or Paperback

This has been on my ‘to read’ list for years so thank you to Sharon for giving me the incentive I needed – and perfect timing for the forthcoming TV series. This omnibus volume includes Queen Lucia, Miss Mapp and Mapp and Lucia. Queen Lucia and Miss Mapp feature the formidable ladies on their own and then E F Benson had the inspired idea of bringing them together in Mapp and Lucia.

Set in the fictional towns of Riseholme and Tilling, the stories follow the upper middle class lives of Miss Elizabeth Mapp and Mrs Emmeline (Lucia) Lucas in the 1920s and 1930s.  E F Benson captures the snobbery and social mores of the period to perfection and the small communities are pictured superbly, with the towns springing to life through his talented pen. The stories are peopled by superbly eccentric characters, mostly well-off, with little else to do with their time, it seems, than spend their time overlooking the affairs of others. Among them, Mapp and Lucia vie for supremacy with all the wiles at their disposal.

Queen Lucia sees Lucia’s return to the idyllic town of Riseholme, determined to regain her place at the centre of everything that happens. Miss Mapp introduces us to the town of Tilling, with its petty squabbles and one-upmanship.

The best book of the three, to my mind, is Mapp and Lucia, the one which brings the ladies together – or should that be against each other? Who will reign supreme among the ladies of Tilling? The period detail is fascinating throughout and gives a wonderful picture of life in the upper middle echelons of society – those who strive to rise above others and become what they are not.   Hilariously understated throughout, these wonderfully perceptive stories are a joy to read.

I'd like to thank Alice at BBC Books for sending us a copy of this book to review and Sarah for reviewing it for the blog.

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