Saturday, May 20, 2006

Book Review: Make Way for Lucia by E.F. Benson

Make Way for Lucia, by E.F. Benson.

Make Way for Lucia is a collection of six comic novels set in an English country village in the 1920s and '30s. Written by the prolific and delightful E. F. Benson ( a son of the archbishop of Canterbury), the novels relate the minor adventures of a group of well-to-do, middle aged friends who spend their time ferociously enjoying the leisure pursuits that their income and the availability of servants allow them. They play bridge; they paint; they host dinner parties; they put on amateur theatricals; they run "garden fetes" to raise money for deserving charities.

All would go swimmingly were it not for the bubbling social war between leading citizenesses Miss Elizabeth Mapp and Mrs. Emmeline Lucas ("Lucia"). After two novels in which Lucia -- she of the lofty intellectual interests and the mystic séances -- - matches wits with an opera star and a London duchess, she meets Miss Mapp, the lone heroine of the third novel. The final three books bring Mapp and Lucia together permanently. Tearoom sparks fly. Who will take the lead in Tilling? Will Mapp connive to keep Lucia's sketch out of the summer Art Exhibition? Will Lucia share the coveted recipe for "lobster a la Riseholme"? Will she get "swanky" as a Town Councillor -- and even more so as Mayor? Is Susan Wyse becoming unhinged over the death of her parakeet? And why did Georgie grow a beard? (Even more importantly, will he make it to the church on time?)

This wonderful series is indeed a "giardino segreto" (secret garden) of enchanting characters, light plots, and pure fun. " 'Oh, what fools people are to take no interest in what they call little things!' " one character says in the first novel. Make Way for Lucia is full of life's little things. They repay our attention here -- "Molto!" as Lucia would exclaim -- again and again.

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Category: Book Review

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