by E.F. Benson
Blurb (from Kirkus):
Queen Lucia, the first in the series, follows Mrs. Lucas (Lucia to her most intimate friends) through a lengthy and often hilarious campaign to derail the career of a would-be rival to the throne of cultural arbiter. The plot, however, is less important than the pratfalls.
(This was a shared read with Donald, so there aren't any specific notes.)
This was my first time re-reading a Lucia book since my first read-through, several years ago. I had (have) only vague memories of "what happened when" in the series-- and apparently I've forgotten at least some of it almost entirely-- so it was next-best-thing to reading it for the first time. Also, there was the extra fun of sharing the laughs with someone, which is the best way to enjoy humorous novels, I think.
Altogether, I think it was a success. I certainly enjoyed the re-reading (even more than the first time around, I think), and Donald was laughing, too-- always a good sign. Benson excels at comedy of manners. The characters and their silly (usually petty) human behavior are the book. The plot is episodic and is merely there to showcase the stars-- Lucia and company.
I've seen the Lucia books compared to the works of P.G. Wodehouse, which is perhaps setting readers up for disappointment. True, they're both British humor, but in atmosphere, they're very different.
Wodehouse's worlds always seem sparkling and happy to me. His strength is glittering, brilliant delivery and convoluted plots that you just know will work out (amazingly, unrealistically) in the end. Lucia's world is more grounded in reality, though the characters' foibles are exaggerated and put on proud display. Oftentimes, you may not particularly like Lucia and her "friends", but you love reading about them. On the other hand, you always sympathize with poor Wooster. (Yes, I'm reducing Wodehouse's canon to Wooster. See if you can stop me!) While Wooster's aunts insult him (outrageously and hilariously) to his very face, Benson's crew is more likely to smile disingenuously and give a back-handed compliment-- or gossip wickedly behind your back. They're rather cut-throat, in a very restrained, respectable way. Both are wonderful reads, but not that similar in tone and style.
...Well, anyway, as I was saying...
A thoroughly enjoyable read! I'm looking forward to the next one (whenever we get around to it).