Saturday, 18 July 1992

Mapp and Lucia

Fiction ~ novel
Published September 1931
105,100 words
(First read 18/07/1992) 

Mapp and Lucia is the fourth in the Mapp and Lucia sequence of novels and (obviously) the first one in which our eponymous 'heroines' get together and lock horns.

In Mapp and Lucia, Mr E. F. Benson is in his gayest and most irresponsible mood. He has no story to tell, but his description of the deadly and long-drawn-out duel between Miss Mapp and Mrs Lucas for the social leadership of the pleasant but scandal-loving town of Tilling is replete with rich humour. Nobody with a sense of the ludicrous can fail to find excellent entertainment in a volume in which Mr Benson is at his best.
~The Western Morning News and Mercury, 14/09/1931
E. F. Benson, author of Miss Mapp and Queen Lucia, has achieved a great success by bringing these two entertaining characters together in his latest novel, Mapp and Lucia […]. With charming insincerity they almost fall on each other's necks, and in an equally charming manner they manoeuvre and skirmish in a 'war to the death' for struggle for leadership of a quiet old village.
~The Daily Mail [Hull], 26/09/1931
After [the effort of producing Ferdinand Magellan, The Inheritor and As We Were (1929-30)], Benson was able to relax with another frivolous adventure, bringing together his two outrageous heroines [in] Mapp and Lucia. [With this novel the two characters] reached the apogee of their absurdity [and] Benson, too, reached the summit of his powers. […] It was a bold stroke to risk the clash of Titans in Mapp and Lucia, effected in the simplest manner by having Mrs Lucas rent Miss Mapp's house in Tilling for a period of two months. No sooner is the redoubtable lady ensconced than, by 'showy little dinners and odious flatteries', she manages to supplant Mapp's position in the town, as a result of which the two women are locked in combat. Quaint Irene, with her 'dismal directness', observes the fun and remains the only character not to take these people seriously. It is much to Benson's credit that he contrives a preposterous climax without losing the reader's sympathy: a sudden flood sweeps Mapp and Lucia away on an upturned kitchen table! Fred read the scene aloud to [his friend] Steven Runciman on the evening of the day he wrote it, to test reaction. He was encouraged.
~Brian Masters in The Life of E. F. Benson, 1991

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