by E.F. Benson
E. F. Benson's strikingly original comic creation Miss Mapp is an arch-schemer and social climber from the British town of Tilling who spends her days using opera glasses and a notebook to chart her neighbors' affairs. Among her interests are Major Benjamin Flint, whom she has been trying to marry for years, and the underhanded Miss Susan Poppit.
Well, that blurb doesn't really do the book justice. Miss Mapp is such a frightful, fearsome person in so many ways, but somehow I love reading about her (and the rest of Tilling, of course). If you have a certain sense of humor (love Wodehouse?), this book hits all the right notes-- a perfect symphony of amusement.
I'd read Miss Mapp once before on my own. This time, it was a shared read with Donald, and I think I liked it even better the second time around. (Better than Queen Lucia, even, I think.) I was surprised at how much I'd forgotten-- and some of the snippets that I remembered best (the rose-madder worsted!) came earlier than expected.
I've seen this labeled as the second in the Lucia series (which is why we read it in that order), but others say that it would be best read third, after Lucia in London (and I suspect that's the order in which I originally read them). I don't see why it should matter one way or the other. The only downside to reading this one second seems to be that you won't see the Tilling characters again until the fourth book...