Queen Lucia by E.F. Benson – #1920Club

I wasn’t sure whether I would manage to read and review anything in time for this week’s 1920 Club (hosted by Karen and Simon) but when I picked up E.F. Benson’s 1920 novel Queen Lucia I found it so entertaining and easy to read that I finished most of it in one day! Although I can’t quite say that I loved it, it was just the sort of thing I was in the mood for at the moment – something that would take my mind off the current situation for a while and whisk me away to another time and place.

That place is Riseholme, a quiet English village described by a newcomer as a “delicious, hole-in-the-corner, lazy backwater sort of place, where nothing ever happens, and nobody ever does anything,” but which, to the people who live there, is the centre of the universe. Life in Riseholme consists mainly of arranging dinner parties and musical evenings, while gossiping about the neighbours – and presiding over all of this is Emmeline Lucas, better known as Lucia (pronounced the Italian way, of course). Along with her husband Philip (‘Peppino’) and her loyal ‘gentleman-in-waiting’ Georgie Pillson, Lucia has put herself at the heart of Riseholme society and is the self-proclaimed queen – so imagine her frustration when her rival, Daisy Quantock, begins to pose a threat to her crown. When Mrs Quantock produces an Indian Guru and offers his services as yoga teacher to the villagers, the jealous Lucia manages to ‘steal’ him for herself, so when Daisy moves on to a new fad she vows not to make the same mistake again…

Lucia is such an unpleasant character! From her irritating habit of speaking baby talk with Georgie and her insistence on dropping Italian phrases into conversation, despite only knowing a few words of the language, to the way she pushes others aside to make herself the centre of attention, there is really not much to like about her at all. And yet that didn’t really matter; as this is a satire and Lucia, and the others, are clearly supposed to be comedy characters, the more unlikeable the better!

This is the first in Benson’s six-novel Mapp and Lucia series and also the first one I’ve read. They had never really appealed to me before, although I know a lot of people love them, so I was pleased to find that I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would. I don’t feel an immediate compulsion to pick up the next one, but I’m sure I will at some point and am looking forward to meeting Miss Mapp.


Usually I’m able to post a list of other books I’ve reviewed on my blog from the relevant club year, but for 1920 I can find only one:

The Great Impersonation by E. Phillips Oppenheim

It’s a great book and one I would highly recommend.

21 thoughts on “Queen Lucia by E.F. Benson – #1920Club

  1. joulesbarham says:

    I went through quite a Mapp & Lucia phase some years ago when life was a bit tough, and while I agree it’s an acquired taste, it is very funny and increasingly surreal as a portrait of a small community being ‘led’ by such dubious characters. I do like the other characters as well, altogether a really entertaining read. Now I am tempted to see if I can find my copies, so thanks for the review!

    • Helen says:

      Although I haven’t been completely won over yet, I did enjoy this book more than I thought I would and it kept me entertained for a day or two. I’ll probably look for the second one soon.

    • Michelle says:

      It has been so long since I read these but yes I agree they get better and funnier! Need to revisit. Even the nicknames are funny: Quaint Irene (although quite stereotyped😉)

  2. piningforthewest says:

    I love this series. Yes Lucia is fairly ghastly and Miss Mapp in the other books is even worse, but the biting sarcasm and humour is all such fun!

  3. Simon T says:

    Glad it worked better than anticipated! I adore this series utterly, but I can see that EFB would be an acquired taste – or at least only suit certain moods.

  4. Karen K. says:

    Lucia is so over the top, she’s hilarious but I can’t imagine dealing with her in person. It gets really funny when Miss Mapp arrives on the scene. The 1985 mini series adaptation is delightful. I haven’t seen the 2014 remake but I can’t imagine it was nearly as good.

    • Helen says:

      I wouldn’t want to have to deal with someone like Lucia in real life either! I’ll look forward to reading the next book and getting to know Miss Mapp 🙂 I haven’t seen either of the adaptations, although I would like to now.

  5. buriedinprint says:

    I know what you mean, that sometimes you don’t quite feel as though you’ve loved a book and yet you have positively inhaled in at a certain time, in a certain mood. This isn’t a series I’ve read, but i do have it back-of-mind and am pleased to hear that it surprised you pleasantly (even if not enough to make you rush for the next in line).

    • Helen says:

      I might never have got around to reading this had it not been for the 1920 Club, but it really was the perfect choice – the right sort of book at just the right time!

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