Sunday, January 27, 2013

Guest Review: MAPP AND LUCIA by EF Benson

book cover Original Publication Date: 1920-1939
Genre: comedy
Topics: society, English village politics

Review by Liz Inskip-Paulk (

Burying into Benson…

I’ve been diving into the fictitious and rather perfect world of an English country village and its inhabitants the last few weeks, this one of Risholme, the home of Lucia and her gang and all the machinations involved in their social shenanigans.

E. F. Benson (1867-1940) wrote a series of novels with the group title of “Mapp and Lucia”, all revolving around the social goings on of a group of (mostly? all?) upper-middle/upper class villagers who are vying with each other as to who should “rule village society”. Lucia rules the roost so far in the series, but she’s had some serious challenges from Daisy et al. especially when she left for London for a while.

I am up to number 3 in the Benson series now* although I did read a couple of them (accidentally) out of order just to get a taste of things, and if you are after a light frothy read about domestic community social politics, then these Lucia books are *perfect* for that. (It could be argued that the Mapp and Lucia books are a more domestic version of Wodehouse’s Bertie and Wooster, I suppose.)

Lucia is the de facto “head” of the village, although in her absence, the inhabitants grouse about her leadership style, and it is this tension that provides the ongoing theme throughout the Mapp/Lucia series. Benson provides an anonymous omniscient and rather camp narrator to tell the story, and this works very well as it allows the reader to see the different PoVs involved in the tangled weave of local politics (socially speaking) through a rather witty lens.

Clearly, the world of Risholme is idealized and epitomizes the idea of “traditional English village” more than real life, but they are rather fun to read. A slightly snarky sense of humor pervades the story, which removes some of the seriousness of the events, and they are really funny in places.

The Benson Mapp/Lucia series is relatively easy to get hold of on-line -- he was a prodigious author, writing a large body of work including fiction, non-fiction, articles and essays -- but it is for Lucia that he remains most famous for.

The Mapp/Lucia series are a treat to read, but like anything sweet, will need to be spread out to get the most fun from it. At the same time, though, I recommend that you don’t leave huge gaps between each title so you can keep the key characters straight.

Take a visit to Risholme and see for yourself!

E. F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia series:

  • Queen Lucia (1920)
  • Miss Mapp (1922)
  • Lucia in London (1927(
  • Mapp and Lucia (1931)
  • Lucia’s Progress (1935) (also known as The Worshipful Lucia)
  • Trouble for Lucia (1939)

Download the Mapp & Lucia Series by EF Benson at Librivox|Project Gutenberg