Sunday, 27 July 2008
Mapp and Lucia
I can't believe I've been blogging for over a year and not made mention of a series of books which I'm sure you all either do love or will love - the Mapp & Lucia series by EF Benson. I've recently had the pleasure of watching Elaine at Random Jottings succumb to Elizabeth and Emmeline, and it has set me off re-reading. I've only read the first four of the six, actually, and if you throw in Tom Holt's well-respected sequels (in the style of EF Benson) then I have only got halfway. More news on Benson sequels very soon...
For those who don't know, EF Benson wrote Queen Lucia in 1920, Miss Mapp in 1922, Lucia in London in 1927 - and by 1931 had the brilliant idea to bring his creations together in Mapp and Lucia. I haven't read the final two books, as I say, but presume that the characters remain united enemies in them. Mapp and Lucia are not likeable characters, by any means - both with their varying pretensions and self-delusions, but both holding sway over their neighbourhood, there is inevitable friction and competition when they meet. And these characters, especially when they meet, are an absolute delight to read about. We laugh at them, we are fond of them, we realise how intimidating it would be to meet them in real life.
My dear friend Barbara-in-Ludlow introduced me to these books, back in 2004, very kindly lending me her beautiful Folio edition. These were returned when I went to university, and I bought up the Black Swan paperback editions. Very nice, even featured in my post about favourite book covers - but I did hanker for the beautiful Folio editions. When I was reading Barbara's, I was so worried I'd get them dirty that I read them with custom-made brown-paper covers. What can people have thought I was reading... Anyway, I found this boxset secondhand in Oxford, and was utterly delighted. Annoyingly, I have to use my glasses to read them (never know why this is true of some books and not others - nothing to do with font size) but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.
Advance apologies to anyone who now must go out and buy this edition... but it's worth it.