The reputation of this book preceeds it. Ever since I had an internet presence (long before Lizzy), fellow readers raved about Benson’s Mapp and Lucia novels. So I bought the Folio Society set in 2009, and have admired the colour palette ever since! Then there was the BBC series in 2014 with Anna Chancellor and Miranda Richardson, which I loved. However, die-hard fans were not fond. The original adaptation with Geraldine Mcewan was far superior they said. So I took a look and stopped after two episodes. I couldn’t bear McEwan’s screeching!
What is the purpose of all this preamble?, you may ask. Well, I am carefully establishing my long history with a book I’ve never opened and my heretical credentials. I was preparing myself to hate this.
So, imagine my surprise to find that Miss Mapp does not appear in these pages, which are fully devoted to a non-screeching Lucia. (I now see her as one of those infuriatingly assertive women who speak in low tones to ensure your complete attention.) She is a woman you love to hate, except, because she is far too amusingly deluded, I don’t (but possibly only because I don’t have to live with her interfering self.) I can imagine her know-it-all sense of superiority and interminable oneupmanship would render her insufferable to live with in small upper middle class, Riseholme. For some, however, she is the undisputed Queen Bee. Her husband, Pepino, and her adoring friend, Georgie, are her adoring courtiers. Daisy Quantock, however, is a potential usurper and the novel records her two attempts at stealing Lucia’s crown. Unfortunately Daisy isn’t the best judge of character. Lucia easily outmanoeuvres her attempt, but the Guru’s nefarious actions would result in the loss of both reputations, were it not for the calling of a timely (if expensive) truce. Daisy’s second introduction to the cultural life of Riseholme, the spirit medium, is as much of a scammer, but, this time she keeps Lucia well away so she cannot take over, and when the truth is in danger of coming out, Daisy (and her husband) must cover up their self-made disaster alone. (Demonstrating remarkable talents, I must say. Daisy’s learning …)
However, when it comes to “manoeuvres” there is none to match Lucia in the small community over which she presides. Well, not until the arrival of Olga Bracely, whose natural grace and talents are in danger of not only exposing the tarnish on Lucia’s crown, but of dethroning her. Except Olga isn’t interested in such petty rivalries, and her stay is only temporary. Still long enough for Georgie to lose his heart. Unfortuately for him, fortunately for Lucia, Olga is married.
Plotwise, there’s no resolution. With Olga’s departure, Georgie returns to the fold, and Daisy is concocting a new assault on Lucia’s status. Olga’s summary of her time as an outsider/observer in Riseholme sums up the action,
It’s all so delicious! … I never knew before how terribly interesting little things were. It’s all wildly exciting …
Skip the hyperbolic terriblys and wildlys of the 1920s, add in some comicallys, and I’d agree. I wanted something to take me away from current lockdown preoccupations. I chose well. Can’t wait to meet Miss Mapp …