Emmeline Lucas, better known as Lucia (pronounced as if Italian), is the undisputed center of society in the southern English town of Riseholme. She sees it as her duty to bring culture and refinement to the townsfolk. Her most faithful subject is her neighbor Georgie, who visits daily to gossip, plan garden parties, and practice the piano. No one in the town dare comment on an artist, poet, or musician without first determining Lucia's opinion.
The security of Lucia's realm is threatened one summer by the rebellion of Daisy Quantock, who has the audacity to invite a yoga guru to her house, and by the arrival of opera star Olga Bracely, who immediately brings Georgie under her spell.
"The red star had risen in Riseholme; Bolshevism was treading in its peaceful air, and if Mrs. Quantock was going to secrete her Guru, and set up her own standard on the strength of him, Georgie felt much inclined to ask Olga Bracely to dinner, without saying anything whatever to Lucia about it, and just see what would happen next." (pp. 34–35)
In this first Lucia book, which takes place in the late 1920s, Benson introduces us to the upper-middle-class residents of Riseholme, who are sure they are every bit as refined as and certainly more industrious than anyone who lives in London. Life is easy and innocent for Lucia and her friends, and we are treated to a charming game of Queen of the Social Hill, which involves competing social events and even matchmaking.
From Georgie and his tomboy sisters to Daisy and her pursuit of all things spiritual to Olga and her threat to Lucia's supremacy, the doings of Riseholme are always fun and often funny. Here are two more quotes:
Olga: "Come into my house instantly, and we'll drink vermouth. Vermouth always makes me brilliant unless it makes me idiotic, but we'll hope for the best."
Daisy: "Georgie suspects something, but luckily he doesn't know what he suspects."
I first read the Lucia books around 1980. I noticed that they had been released on audio, and I thought that would be a nice way to revisit Lucia and her world. The unabridged audio production (narrated by Nadia May) was nicely done, but I think Lucia is much better savored in print.
If you are as taken by Lucia as I was, don't miss the other books in the series. Lucia and Georgie are at the core of them all.
Print published by Moyer Bell, January 2000
Audio published by Blackstone Audio, 1997
Challenges: A-Z Title, Audiobook, 999, 100+