Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pure unadulterated Joy

Once upon a time I had all six of E.F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books and I loved them even if it was a long time since I read them. Last year when I started to catalogue my books I realised that at some point six had become three – there was a general wailing and gnashing of teeth. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the three that disappeared had been three that fitted nicely into one of the omnibuses, or if they were still generally in print, or if they came up regularly in second hand shops.

None of these things being the case and there always being a long list of unread (by me) books to acquire when I hit second hand sights coupled with a job that currently just about pays the mortgage and very little else I was beginning to think it would be a very very long time before all the Mapp and Lucia’s would be lined up, ducks in a row, on my bookshelf again. Then happy day I saw a copy of ‘Miss Mapp’ in the same black swan imprint as my remaining volumes for a meagre £1.50 in a charity shop. After I went home to check it was a missing one, and then went back before the shop opened the next day to stand on the doorstep in the freezing cold for quarter of an hour risking missing my work bus in the process I finally got the prize (and to work).

After a weekend battling with Sofia Tolstoy I couldn’t resist taking refuge in a bit of Benson and so started to read and haven’t wanted to stop since. I got through ‘Miss Mapp’ and have moved on to ‘Mapp and Lucia’. I think if I go without cups of tea at work for the rest of the month than I can safely order the final missing two without bouncing a single cheque so that’s what I’m going to do. (As an aside being poor is becoming really very tiresome – I would really like the chance to try something different now.)

I was trying to remember when I last read these books – I think I would have been about sixteen which seems young now to be reading about the social machinations of middle age ladies. I know I loved these books and at that age I tended to read and re read a book to death but somehow the Benson’s are in remarkably good shape and better yet I find I don’t remember much of the detail. Tilling is familiar but to all intents and purposes I could be reading these books for the first time – and happily it’s one of those meetings with a childhood friend where I find we still like each other and there are no awkward silences.

I think it’s probably common for anyone who collects books faster than they can read them to question if they have time to re read when there are so many new undiscovered things just waiting to be picked up. It never really occurred to me how much of a book I would forget after twenty years, probably because I’m only just now old enough (that’s how I would like to be thought of at any rate) to be finding out. Anyway I’m off to ponder that a bit more and to read more Mapp and Lucia - pure unadulterated joy...


  1. I know the feeling of realising some of your books are missing. Are you on Library Thing? It's great for cataloguing your books. I've never read Mapp and Lucia though I've had one of their books for ages. I really should read it someday.

  2. I've never actually read any Mapp and Lucia although my Dad and partner love them. I must give them a go.

    Like Mrs B, I endorse librarything. Even if your books are fairly well organised, it's useful to be able to look and see what one has and hasn't. I just need an application for my phone with it on!!

  3. I really want to try these, I have heard nothing but good things!!!
    What books are you looking for? I often see these in charity shops/2nd hand shops in London and I'd be happy to get you them if I find them!

  4. Hello! I have only recently found your blog and I love your post about M&L. I ADORE these books! I also have the Black Swan collection together with the two Tom Holt sequels and Guy Fraser-Sampson's 'Major Benjy'. Have you read any of these?
    I am currently saving the Tom Holts as a treat. Fans of M&L have advised that his books are very close to Benson's style. I've read 'Major Benjy' and although a welcome instalment, it differs from Benson's subtle humour.
    I think I may have come across your missing books in a charity shop the other day. You need 'Queen Lucia' and 'Trouble for Lucia', yes? I'm going back to the shop next week so will get them for you if they are available.
    Always lovely to see a post on M&L - cheers me up no end :-)
    P.S. Have you watched the marvellous tv adaptation of Mapp and Lucia with Geraldine McEwan, Prunella Scales and Nigel Hawthorne? Wonderful stuff with lovely shots of Rye (Tilling).

  5. Just a quick recommendation... if you haven't already read it. I found Benson's 'Secret Lives', set in London, wonderful and very much as cheerful, witty and colourful as the M&L books.

  6. Rochester Reader, hello and welcome. I have read the Holt books years ago and liked them at the time, but do remember deciding not to keep them when I had a moving purge (I would never have willingly let go of the Benson's. Thank you for the kind offer - your right about the books but they have now been amazoned and are hopefully on the way...

    Verity, Mrs B, and booksnob, do read these books if/when they cross your paths - they really are brilliant and just the thing for feb:)

  7. That's lovely! I'm itching to read Benson again now. As you say, perfect reading for this weather.

  8. There have been a couple of times in my life where I have moved cross country and felt very discombobulated once the adrenalin of moving wore off. Mapp and Lucia were my comforting reads to help me feel more at home in strange new places.