E.F. Benson’s series about the marvellous Lucia is a gift I can ascribe to blogging. I’d heard of it perhaps once or twice before starting Shelf Love, but never seriously considered reading it. It was my British blogging friends like Elaine at Random Jottings and Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book who convinced me I ought to try Lucia. I read the first of the novels several months ago and enjoyed it greatly — it struck me as a farce or drawing-room comedy different in subject but similar in tone to P.G. Wodehouse’s books — and I finally treated myself to the second in the series, Lucia in London. Not only was I delighted again, I thought the second book was even better than the first.
In Lucia in London, the inimitable Lucia, who is reigning queen of the small town of Riseholme, has inherited several thousand pounds and a house in London. Of course, the denizens of Riseholme can talk of nothing else: what will she do with the money? Lucia has always made a great show of hating London as a place of no culture, a place where it is impossible to think, read, or listen to music on a higher plane. But instead of selling her London house, she whisks herself off to live in it, without a backward glance at the Riseholmeites. Can Lucia conquer London?
Well, of course she can. Lucia is the social climber par excellence: gifted with an almost uncanny sense for who is important and who can be discarded, as well as how to make herself appear more important than she is, Lucia climbs to dizzying heights. She is totally determined, completely unsnubbable, and full of an absolutely tireless energy. I had the sense that, given time, she could easily become Mayor of London if she so chose. And she makes herself loved as she does it: a secret society of Luciaphils creates itself around her, as the froth of true London society watches her progress with open, admiring mouths.
Back home, of course, in Riseholme, things are different. Lucia’s cast-off friends pretend that they have no need of her, and they make several attempts to do without her, including a craze for Ouija boards and the establishment of a Riseholme Museum. However, it is not until Lucia’s triumphant return that life really comes back to the town, and in the end they have to admit that life without Lucia is not worth living.
To be honest, I have to concur. I just loved this book. I snickered myself silly over it. It was even better-written than Queen Lucia, richer in characters and in funny situations. If this kind of silliness appeals to you at all, I can’t recommend highly enough that you, too, become a Luciaphil.