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Queen Lucia, E.F. Benson

I was attacted to this book (and series by Benson) because Tom Holt has written sequels to these books, and I felt like I should read the originals before searching out Holt’s pastiches. I was reminded of these in a recent thread on rec.arts.books regarding writers similar to P.G. Wodehouse. Finding a cheap paperback at The Tattered Cover, I splurged the ninety-eight cents. And it was a ninety-eight cents well spent. Benson isn’t Wodehouse, but then, who is? What Benson has is his own idea about the English and their manners, or what passes for manners in his idealized and satirical version of small town high society. Mrs. Emmeline Lucas–Lucia to all in the small town of Riseholme–rules her town with a iron will. She is the arbiter of all things cultural. But when Olga Bracely, the opera star, decides to take up residence in Riseholme, Lucia discovers that her thin veneer of culture can’t stand up to the real thing. Watching Lucia get her comeuppance, and then re-win her social throne, is the main plot of the book. But there’s also Daisy Quantock’s Guru, and the mysterious medium, and the imperious Lady Ambermere, and the rest of Riseholme. Like Wodehouse, Benson has created characters that seem very familiar, and yet aren’t typical stereotypes, and the fun is watching how they play against each other.

[Finished 29 April 1993]


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