Lucia in London

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.

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13 Responses to Lucia in London

  1. Steph says:

    I picked up a copy of Queen Lucia a few years ago at a used bookstore, but admit that I’ve never gotten around to reading it! I’m so glad to hear that you’ve enjoyed the first two books so much, and of course the comparison to Wodehouse has me doubly interested in finally getting round to this one! I’ll keep it in mind when I need a good dose of English humor!

    • Jenny says:

      Steph, the comparison to Wodehouse is quite loose — just think in terms of English silliness amongst the upper classes. The tone is similar, but the situations are quite different. Still, my enjoyment was much the same!

  2. Cristina says:

    Hello! I just came upon your blog via the ‘Lucia in London’ link. I’m so glad you enjoyed it as I love the Mapp and Lucia novels. You have such delights instore! Believe it or not, it gets muuuuch better. The Mapp and Lucia trilogy (‘Mapp and Lucia’, Lucia’s Progress’ and ‘Trouble for Lucia’) are the real jewels along with ‘Miss Mapp’ (which doesn’t feature Lucia but introduces us to Miss Mapp and Tilling – where the remainder of your novels are set. Tilling is indeed a character in the book as Benson based it upon Rye in England and all of the locations can still be found there today (under different names). If you ever visit England, I highly recommend a visit to Rye where, as a Luciaphile, you will be absolutely ecstatic at seeing Miss Mapp’s house, and other locations from the book.
    Happy reading :-)

    • Jenny says:

      Cristina — thank you so much for the wonderfully enthusiastic comment! If the rest of the books are truly even better than the ones I’ve read, I am really in for a delicious treat!

  3. Cori says:

    Similar to Wodehouse? Sign me up!

    • Jenny says:

      Cori — again, similar in tone though not in subject. But I think people who would enjoy one would probably enjoy the other.

  4. Simon T says:

    So glad you like these books – and four more gems for you to read! Because ‘Miss Mapp’ is *actually* the second in the series (though I’m not sure they’re published like this anymore) and then ‘Lucia in London’, and then – oh joy! – they meet. Benson hadn’t initially planned it that way, he just decided to bring them together… In England, only ‘Mapp and Lucia’ (the fourth in the series) is in print – I don’t understand how people just read that one without reading the background to the characters, so you’re doing well, and in for a treat!

    • Jenny says:

      Simon — thank you so much for this. I’m not sure how I got confused on the order of the books, but I did have Miss Mapp next on my list. And I do have the sense that I am indeed in for a treat!

  5. This series has been on my to-read list for a while. My library branch has “Make Way for Lucia,” which combines all the books into one volume — very tempting! I’ll have to read it when I finish the Provincial Lady diaries. I’ve never seen the BBC adaptation but I’ve heard that’s good too.

    • Jenny says:

      Karenlibrarian — I would definitely give these a try if you think they would appeal at all. I wasn’t sure, but it turns out they are completely delightful.

  6. Stefanie says:

    I’ve never heard of these books before but they sound like fun. My library has Make Way for Lucia so I’ve saved it to my to-read “basket.”

  7. trapunto says:

    This is just the kind of thing I’m in the mood for. Thanks for your review.

  8. litlove says:

    I adore this series – so witty and yet sharply insightful, beautifully written comfort reading. What more could you possibly ask for?

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