“Though it was nearly a year since her husband’s death, Emmeline Lucas (universally known to her friends as Lucia) still wore the deepest and most uncompromising mourning. “
Why is it that the British seem overstocked with authors who can write humorous tales that make readers want to read more, immediately after they finish the first book? I can think of a number of books and authors that fit into this category: P.G. Wodehouse, Jerome K. Jerome, I Capture the Castle, The Diary of a Nobody, Henrietta’s War, Stella Gibbons, and now E.F. Benson comes to the forefront.
I first was introduced to the Mapp and Lucia BBC production and wondered if the books could be just as entertaining. I was wrong. This one was even better!
Mrs. Emmeline Lucas, better known to everyone as Lucia, had lost her husband a year ago and is still rather devastated about it. However, as much as grief is normal at such a time, a person with such an extroverted and gregariously pert personality as Lucia, cannot remain in mourning forever. With an idea of a change of scenery and to escape the Elizabethan summer drama of her village of Riseholme of which Daisy Quantock has taken her place as organizer, Lucia rents a house called Mallards in the village of Tilling from Elizabeth Mapp, a woman whom she had met briefly once before during Elizabeth’s visit to Riseholme. In a touch of brilliance, Lucia convinces her best friend, Georgie Pillson to join her and lo!, he is able to secure the cottage next door to Mallards. And so the fun begins.
It seems the village of Tilling loves to change houses during the summer, so while Lucia rents Mallards, Elizabeth rents another house in the village and so on and so on. Determined to keep her “queen of the castle” status, Elizabeth does not anticipate Lucia’s charm nor her determined character. She soon realizes that another queen has come ready to usurp her, and promptly the war begins.
It’s a war of words but more a war of tactics and every resident of Tilling is drawn into the battle whether they wish it or not. The reader becomes acquainted with all the Tillingites: Diva Plaistow, Quaint Irene, Major Benji Flint, Mr. and Mrs. Wyse, and the Padre and his wife, and each person has a unique, yet dynamic flair to their character which gives the story even more appeal.
The novel is ripe with all sorts of curiosities, including Lucia’s odd baby-talk with Georgie, her basic yet flamboyant Italian (which gets her into a pickle), a recipe for a famous dish that is kept under lock like it’s the king’s treasury, a torrential rainstorm, and a sea journey. Lucia’s charming dominance over people is countered by Elizabeth Mapp’s manipulation and at times heartless conduct to retain her social influence and standing at all costs. In spite of a cringe now and then at the behaviour of the ladies, the battle of Mapp and Lucia makes for an adventurous and compellingly light-hearted read!
Mapp and Lucia (1931) is the fourth book in the Mapp and Lucia series, being proceeded by Queen Lucia (1920), Miss Mapp (1922), Lucia in London (1927), and being followed by Lucia’s Progress (1935) and Trouble for Lucia (1939). Will any of the other volumes live up to the rousing entertainment provided by this one? If you’ve read any of them, please let me know!