Mapp and Lucia by E. F. Benson

Mapp and Lucia“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.

Rye Street

Rye Street (of which Tilling is based on) source Wikipedia

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.

Lamb House, Rye

Lamb House, Rye (a model for Mallards at Tilling)
~ source Wikipedia

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!

Rye and the filming of Mapp and Lucia

Rye and the filming of Mapp and Lucia ~source Wikimedia Commons

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!


22 thoughts on “Mapp and Lucia by E. F. Benson

  1. I read the first of these novels Queen Lucia a few years back and it was such a riot! Her dynamics with George Pillson is especially funny and the quiet English village come alive in the book. Funny I did not read any of the other books; thank you for reminding me. I will go back and pick a few more again! Excellent review as always! 🙂

    • I’m so relieved to hear that Queen Lucia is amusing as well. My library only has two books in the series. So frustrating. But I’ll keep an eye out and hopefully find one or two used. Thanks, sis, for the complement! 😘 Hope you’re doing well!!

  2. I adore this series. I recently re-read Queen Lucia and loved it as much as on my first read. Tho, I noticed that a lot of the events in the tv series seem to also occur in Queen Lucia, such as the guru.

    I can’t remember if the tv series tried to be based on Mapp & Lucia or is a mix of different anecdotes from throughout the series,

    • Queen Lucia sounds like a charm. I’m going to have to find it somewhere and READ!!

      I can’t remember clearly the T.V. series but my guess is that they used situations from all the books. I just looked and my library doesn’t have it anymore. Rats! Even though my library is one of 26 in the system and it’s close to the third largest city in Canada, they often have very little that is good anymore. It’s sad.

        • Oh, BT, you’re a life-saver! Thanks so much! They are all there on PG. I have to check out FadedPage; I haven’t heard of it before.

          Thanks again! 🙏

          • I love FadedPage. It’s Canadian and it has a lot of mystery titles, which is what appealed to me in the first place. In general, tho, FP seems to have more of the “modern” titles that are out of copyright (in Canada).

  3. Great review as always! I love this type of novel so it’s a little odd that I’ve held off from the Mapp/Lucia series; I was a little doubtful about it and also didn’t know quite where to start (now I know, thanks!).
    I like (and totally agree with) your point about the addicitve quality of a certain type of British fiction. I’d add Barbara Pym, one of my personal favorites, to your list!

    • Thank you! It’s sounds like Queen Lucia is amazing. I would have liked to read them in order but sadly I’m limited by my library (and the funds I have to buy books; I buy too many already).

      Thanks so much for the recommendation of Barbara Pym. I’ve heard her name but I had no idea she was funny. Do you have a first read recommendation??

  4. i read one of the books (can’t recall which, tho) and fell off the couch laughing… apparently i got distracted (how unusual! lol) and missed the others. never seen the tv series: another must! tx for brightening my morning!!

    • It’s interesting how people can read a book in a series, love it, and then read no more. Is it because we’re apprehensive that the other books won’t live up to the first one?

      When it comes to books, I have the problem of distraction too! 😁😆

      You’re welcome! It was certainly a fun read.

    • IF I can find another. My local library is dismal and paperbacks are so expensive now. I’ll keep my eye out and perhaps I can find one used somewhere. But I’m glad to hear that they’re all very good!

    • I think you’d really like it and from some of the comments, I think Queen Lucia might be even better, or at least as good. I’ll be eagerly watching for your review! 😃

      • Don’t hold your breathe 🙂 Adding it to my reading rotation just means it will happen in the next year, 6 months at the earliest. I have a system and it works great for me, so I don’t mess with it 🙂

      • Well, I did add it to the ’22 rotation and should be finishing up the series early in ’23.
        I’m hoping the tv show is on Prime, as I’d like to see how it translates to the screen.

        • I saw the show first so I’m probably not one to give my opinion. I found Lucia weird at first but after reading this book, I understand her behaviour and like her quite alot. I need to watch it again to see what I think now.

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