14 April 2009

Review: Queen Lucia by E. F. Benson

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
ISBN-13: 9781559212526
Challenges: A-Z Title, Audiobook, 999, 100+
Rating: A
YTD: 30


Anonymous,  4/14/09, 9:27 AM  

I love series like this! Come visit me....I have something =)

Unknown 4/14/09, 9:35 AM  

I've never read or heard of this series but thanks to your review I'm definitely putting it on my wish list. Along with your recommendation, I think I'll read it instead of going for audio version.

John 4/14/09, 10:37 AM  

I have to admit, I'm always intrigued when an author can give us a view into another time and then tweek our our notions of it. Even over some 80 yearts and an ocean away, people change so little, if at all. I'm also especially pleased that there's another vermouth reference to add to our growing collection. Must find more.

Margot 4/14/09, 11:38 AM  

Lucia and Georgie sound fun. I'm sorry I missed them. I'm glad you brought them to my attention.

Julie P. 4/14/09, 12:43 PM  

Great review! Thanks for putting these on my radar!

Robin M 4/14/09, 1:00 PM  

I love the last two quotes - made me giggle. Will have to book mark them for my wish list.

I decided to play this week. My post is up now here

Joanne ♦ The Book Zombie 4/14/09, 1:16 PM  

This sounds like a fun book to listen to on audio! Back in high school I read Benson's Freaks Of Mayfair - it was great.

Beth F 4/14/09, 1:22 PM  

Joanne: I haven't read that Benson. I'll definitely put on my wish list. Thanks!

bermudaonion 4/14/09, 4:00 PM  

I am adding this (in print) to my wish list - great review!

Anonymous,  4/14/09, 4:04 PM  

A great book! And I love that cover.

Kim 4/14/09, 8:39 PM  

Hi Beth, have you read the others in the series?:
Lucia in London
Miss Mapp
Mapp and Lucia
Lucia's Progress/The Worshipful Lucia
Trouble for Lucia

I own 3 of these: Queen Lucia, Miss Mapp and Lucia in London. I would love to get the rest and have them all here when I get ready to read them!
What a fun review you have written and great quotes.

Kim 4/14/09, 9:23 PM  

Hi Beth--me again.
I am so sad--I just clicked on Paperback Frenzy and saw it had been shut down--am I really behind the times on this or did it just happen?

BooksPlease 4/15/09, 4:26 AM  

I really must read this!

Please check my blog for an award for you.

Beth F 4/15/09, 6:52 AM  

Kim: (1) Yes I've read the whole series, but that was back in the early 1980s. I'll likely reread them all over the next year. They are so much fun. I also just noticed that there are two series available on DVD, so I might rent them.

Paperback Frenzy went down just this week. Lee (the person who ran it) had other responsibilities and taking care of the site was becoming a burden. Time constraints and overcommitment were the only reasons the site was disbanded.

Bonnie 4/15/09, 8:27 AM  

I enjoy reading books based in England and these sound very good.
I'll be adding them to my wishlist.
Thanks for sharing them with us.

That's too bad about Paperback Frenzy. There was a recent buzz in the blogging world about this site. Sorry to see it close down so soon.

Ashley 4/15/09, 10:51 PM  

This book sounds great, thanks for the recommendation!

Belle | MsBookish 4/17/09, 5:26 PM  

I love the Lucia books! I have one of those big omnibus volumes that contain all the stories - you've inspired me to go and dig it out (it's in this house somewhere ...)

Peta 4/19/09, 3:24 AM  

I really need to get around to reading these books and just wish I had them to hand as a read-a-thon read! One to bump up the wishlist.

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