‘Oh joy!’ Always an insincere cry from Mapp but a genuine one from me on receiving another Mapp and Lucia book by Guy Fraser-Sampson. We are now in post-war England but the inhabitants of Tilling seem to suffer little deprivation and are as keen as ever on bridge, gossip and shopping. And will there ever be an end to the rivalry between Mapp and Lucia? The only thing they agree on is their dislike of a Labour government. (I’m not sure about this; I see Lucia as a Vicar of Bray-type who is always on the winning side.) Wearing his other hat as a finance writer, the author explains in some detail how Lucia’s fortune has survived the Wall Street Crash and the war; she is in fact a profiteer. I could hardly understand a word of that but what matters is that luck and acumen have made Lucia ‘probably the richest woman in England’.
Ever ambitious and deluded, Lucia gets it into her head that a damehood would be suitable recognition for her many philanthropic deeds and puts out feelers. Perhaps Olga Bracely can help? She does, after all know everybody, unlike Lucia, who has hubristically let it be thought that she is a good friend of Noël Coward. Mapp is naturally out to prove this to be the lie it is, but, as so often, although right she is worsted. I laughed out loud at ‘Nobody had appreciated that in addition to all her other undoubted accomplishments, Lucia was a part-time gag writer for Noël Coward.’ Busy Lucia also organises a bridge tournament to bring fame to Tilling (and herself). Cue more teeth gnashing from Mapp, who in an attempt to outflank her, brings up the fabled Roman remains story again. Will she never learn? Mapp, Major Benjy, Diva, the Wyses, the Bartletts and quaint Irene leap off the page, all behaving and speaking entirely characteristically. This is Lucia's apotheosis and another sparkling triumph for Guy Fraser-Sampson.
I read this book courtesy of the publishers, Elliott and Thompson. It will be out on 27th March. I wish I could make it to the book launch at Daunt Books, if only to chide the author gently for bringing a tear to my eye at the end of the book, cattivo man. Not what we expect in Tilling, but very touching.
See also Major Benjy.