on 5 February 2014
the original books are absolutely perfect and Tom Holts two novels were a delicious additon to the series, Guy Fraser-Sampsons however fail to capture the innocence and essence of the characters, Major Benjy was okay but i have never picked it up again unlike the other books which i reread every year, and now with Lucia On Holiday he has created a hideous mess by bringing physical sex into the story, i felt angry and embarrassed as though dear old friends were being abused in front of my eyes, every copy of this book should be destroyed and we can pretend it never happened, the though of a new one in the series fills me with horror, especially as the war period was covered so well by Tom Holt.
I do wonder who wrote the five star reviews for this book, eager employees of the publisher and friends of the author??... for no true fan could possibly enjoy this.
on 7 April 2012
The delight of E. F. Benson's `Mapp & Lucia' series of stories is in their depiction of the rivalry that exists between the two main characters which is played out with genteel ruthlessness to the admiration and glee of the supporting characters, who are fellow residents of the respectable and polite little town of Tilling in Sussex. The stories are, each of them, a hilarious social commentary on the eccentricities of behaviour and manners that we are led to believe existed amongst those who enjoyed life at the mid to upper middle-class level during the 1920's and early 1930's. The petty snobberies, jealousies, social gaffes and, in some cases, plainly comic mannerisms of the characters come across splendidly to the reader, eased on their way by Benson's cleverly crafted underwritten style. This then, is the benchmark by which we have to judge the success or otherwise of any addition to the series by other authors years after Benson's death.
Tom Holt wrote two `Mapp & Lucia' stories - `Lucia Triumphant' and `Lucia in Wartime', and I think he came close to recapturing the atmosphere of Benson's originals. Benson may have baulked at introducing real-life, world-renowned characters into the lives of the familiar residents of Tilling, as Holt does at the end of `Lucia in Wartime', (I won't give the game away for those still to read the book), but for the most part Holt's two books succeed because, as author, he recognises one thing; the disasters, disappointments, embarrassments and significant events that the Tilling residents experience in life almost always revolve around or stem from something perfectly simple. It might be a dress-pattern, a recipe for a dinner dish, the daily shop, the town's annual art exhibition, the death of a budgerigar, even in one case the death of one of the early characters...anything. Even when the sea flooded the local marshes resulting in the two principal characters, Elizabeth Mapp and Emmeline Lucas, floating off into the Channel on an upturned table and being presumed drowned for months on end by the rest of the townsfolk, the spell of simplicity remained unbroken. After all, floods do sometimes happen, and out of this one a host of compelling storylines concerning other characters naturally developed.
It is this simplicity that I found largely missing in Guy Fraser-Sampson's `Lucia on Holiday'. Instead of the tale developing naturally from simple events - a thing that is, I suppose, more difficult for a writer to achieve convincingly than us readers might expect - I felt the author was too obviously looking for bigger issues to hang the story upon.
When Lucia, (now Emmeline Pillson), and her husband, Georgie arrange a holiday in Italy, taking in Venice then settling in a hotel at Bellagio on the shore of Lake Como, fate conspires that the less affluent Mapp-Flints, (Elizabeth Mapp and her husband Major Benjamin Flint) are given the means to take their holiday at the same exotic location in the same hotel and in the process also cause severe damage to the enormous and priceless Bugatti Type 41 that Major Flint drives them through Europe in to get there. By coincidence Algernon and Susan Wyse turn up at the hotel, together with his sister Amelia, Contessa di Faraglione. Olga Bracely plays a large part in events and Poppy, Duchess of Sheffield, makes a few appearances to plague Georgie with her attraction to men with beards. Unfortunately, the remaining characters that we are so familiar with, and indeed Tilling itself, only make a very brief appearance at the start of the book, the bulk of the story being set in Italy. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that in itself. The planning of the story is the author's business, not mine. Only, I just felt as I read further into the book that Benson's original template had been abandoned and the importance of characters such as Diva Plaistow, Quaint Irene and the Reverend Kenneth Bartlett and his wife Evie overlooked. And, that is to say nothing of the domestic staff; Cadman, Foljambe, Grosvenor, Withers etc. - A prime example of not realizing what you have until it's not there.
As for the characters that are there, how faithfully do they resemble their portrayal in Benson's original stories? That is a difficult question to answer. I suppose each reader will have to make their own judgement about it. For what my opinion is worth, there were a few moments when I thought; yes, spot on, that is just what Benson would have made him/her say or how they would have behaved. But they were rare moments. More generally, I had the feeling that these people were impersonating old friends; some of the mannerisms and stock-phrases being overdone and occasionally Mr Fraser-Sampson gets it wrong for me completely. Would Benson ever have allowed Georgie to shout "You stupid woman!" at Lucia, then seize her arm and throw her back on to the sofa?
More successful, I think, is the presentation of Olga Bracely and her times with Georgie, as she introduces him to her society friends. The Olga Bracely in this book is pretty much the Olga Bracely of the Benson books. I think the reason for this is that she is a forthright, larger than life person by nature anyway, and as a character exists for the others to react to, rather than interact with; - yes, even Georgie included. Olga's whole life is a performance of one sort or another and she needs no great subtlety of depiction to make her a believable person.
As for the other main characters' antics here, in the main, I did not find them so believable. The rivalry between Mapp and Lucia exists as much as ever in `Lucia on Holiday' but somehow seems of secondary importance to bigger events and questions going on elsewhere in the book: - Events which, here too, include a couple of real-life characters, (one of which I admit to never having heard of before).
It is obvious that Mr Fraser-Sampson put a lot of work and research into `Lucia on Holiday', and I applaud his bravery in putting himself in the spotlight before his fellow Mapp and Lucia enthusiasts by writing it. It is by no means a badly written book. It just did not quite work for me. However, we followers of Mapp and Lucia are a diverse bunch and I expect opinions will vary. What we can all be grateful for is that the adventures of our heroes from Tilling are still being written about in 2012.
on 12 October 2012
I love the Lucia books and have found their subtle wit, clever characterisation and and imaginative plotting to be a delight. I read the Tom Holt books and also enjoyed them so I was keen to see what a different author would do with the characters. But, I was really disappointed. The writing lacks any of the subtlety that Benson employed, instead Lucia is a shrew, Mapp a vulgar fishwife, Major Benjy an alcoholic philanderer and I wasn't quite sure what to make of Georgie. The author uses a heavy hand in recreating the characters and the plot (and doesn't seem t like using full stops, some of the sentences where incredibly long!) and this made the book a real disappointment. A bit like going to visit old friends only to find they have undergone personality transplants.
on 1 September 2012
Tom Holt, as mentioned elsewhere in these reviews, came as close as anyone to a very passable E F Benson style with the same engaging and lifelike characters. Mr Fraser-Sampson does not quite pull it off. There are two main reasons for this: a failure to observe the niceties of the period with sometimes out-of-character remarks, notably Georgie; and characters which by constant allusion to former adventures seek constantly to prove to the reader that they are real deal and not made up. Add to this characters that have little or nothing to do - the Wyses - the Duchess of Sheffield whose presence serves no useful purpose and characters who should develop but do not: the poor youth Ramesh whose sole purpose seems to be to justify the Mapp-Flints being in Italy but who rarely interact with what must be a very bored young person.
Then there are the anomalies. Sometimes there are Americanisms: 'wrap,' 'pull a whisky,' and the wrong use of out-of-time (and class) slang. Major Benjy uses the term 'sprog' for child, but this dates to the 40s not the 30s. He would not have used such a word. The Countess, who before had never met Lucia for fear of their mutual skills (or lack of them) in Italian, now call each other by Christian names and speak English with no Italian exchange even though they are in Italy. Likewise Mapp makes no illusion to Lucia's poor Italian and it is of no consequence to Lucia. This makes no sense.
The characters we know so well oscillate between stereotyped and simply wrong. Georgie is headstrong but somehow he is not what he should be, neither bold nor subservient. There is too much description of his interaction with Lucia, It is not necessary. Mr Wyse embodies polish but he does nothing, likewise Susan. Olga should be more outrageous and loud, but seems to tire of this as the book goes on.
But worst of all, whereas E F Benson cleverly leaves all matters sexual barely alluded to, our author devises several inuendoes that are far too bold: Georgie as seemingly seduced by his valet and allowing a servant-master equality which would never have happened; smoking of hashish - ludicrous - and even the suggestion of impropriety with Olga and a reaction from Lucia which is never followed up. The major's dalliance with a female is too bold for the time and more to the point it is out of style. Mention of the Mapp-Flynt's sleeping arrangements. It is simply crude at times and E F Benson was never crude. This was the age of elegance.
In short, the story starts well and then drifts and annoys. There is too much concurrent action without proper follow-up, too much description, errors and enough to distract and make one realise that this is at best a parody, not a continuation of Benson's classic story. The intentions were good, but not quite good enough.
Worth a read for amusement, but not the real thing by a long shot.
on 14 May 2012
I've been an E F Benson fan for years, and have read all his Mapp & Lucias. I was slightly doubtful about the idea of a modern author carrying the series on, but having heard him on R4, thought it was worth a go. Unfortunately, my first instinct was right, that we are FAR too knowing in the 21st century to carry on where Benson left off. Too knowing or not subtle enough, I'm not sure. The characters become two dimensional caricatures - Major Benjy is no longer just a retired military man with a slight tendency to tippling and a bit of an eye to the 'lovely ladies', but now a raging alcoholic desperately trying to escape his wife with any bit of fluff that takes his fancy. Elizabeth Mapp(-Flint) becomes an entirely unsympathetic character (however bad she got, Benson never made her that), while the travesty that Fraser-Sampson makes of Georgie doesn't bear thinking about.
The great thing about Benson was that he conveyed so much about his characters with only tiny hints and without feeling that he had to explain or emphasise their peculiarities - without having to batter it into the reader with a mallet. This is why his books can be read time and time again. Unfortunately, Fraser-Sampson is free with the use of his sledgehammer at every turn. Whether the problem is that he doesn't have very high expectations of the intelligence of his readers, or whether he is just a bit clunky in his imaginings, the behaviour of his characters is SO clearly signposted, SO predictable, and SO inevitable and SO totally lacking in subtlety that it becomes thoroughly wearisome work to read. Added to this the bizarre, and as far as I can see unnecessary, penchant for giving us synopses of all the plotlines in Benson's own works, and this book becomes close to unreadable for any Benson devotee.
To mitigate this, I think one thing this book does do is perhaps indicate it isn't possible for anyone (however good a writer) in the 21st century to to justice to Benson and his characters. We are too post-modern, too obsessed with sex (as much, as odd and as graphically described as possible), too obsessed with celebrity and too aware of the world outside our own limited circles. Benson's characters are fixed in their time and in their place (taking them away from Riseholme into the world was a very odd decision) and I think any attempt for a modern writer to pick up the reins is doomed to failure. We don't understand how to leave something alone, (either in plotting, as this book makes quite clear), or in publishing, as the publication of this book makes clear. If you love Benson, it's best to leave this on the shelf.
on 22 September 2014
I was so much looking forward to reading this book. A new book featuring Mapp and Lucia - what bliss! And the reviews on the cover were very encouraging.
I was *so* disappointed. It's awful. Guy Frazer-Sampson has none of the light touch or wit of E F Benson, let alone the grasp of the niceties of etiquette and conventions of the period.
The comedy in this book is gross compared to the originals. I don't want to give away the story for anyone who wants to read it, so I won't specify, but sex and drugs are inserted into the plot. Sex and drugs in Mapp and Lucia's world? Any E F Benson fan will wince with me.
When I compare this tale to the delicacy and wit with which E F Benson describes the Pilson's marriage it makes me frankly gloomy... This new author is so clumsy, so wrong.
I knew it wasn't going to come off as a convincing sequel very early on. Guy Fraser-Sampson doesn't let the description, the story or the characters amuse. No, he takes the humour upon himself and signals "joke" while he does so. Very heavy-handed and noticeable within the first chapter. And it didn't get any better as the book went on. Sigh...
on 10 September 2014
Awful awful awful! I am a longstanding reader of E.F. Benson and decided to give this a try after reading a good review in the paper,should never have bothered! The characters have no depth,are just a string of words, they enter say some rubbish and ,with"au reservoir" are gone,till the next time,when the same scene takes place again, but without Benson's light touch and affection for Mapp,the padre, Lucia,Major Benjy etc.I don't know who told Fraser-Sampson he should write this book, but I wish they had kept quiet!
on 22 February 2013
Lucia and Elizabeth always pretended to 'get on' that was one reason the books were so amusing. She would never have treated Elizabeth in such an unkind way. Georgie's homosexuality was only hinted at in the original books, not made blatant in any way. In the original books Major Benjy referred to his wife as 'girly', not 'Liz girl'. Also Olga and Georgie would never had made their relationship so obvious. These were just a few of the inaccuracies. A rubbish book. Straight round to the Charity Shop I'm afraid. A great disappointment. Saying that I did enjoy Major Benjy by the same author.
on 18 June 2013
I put this dismal counterfeit down after 5 pages. This is not the Lucia as written by E,F.Benson. This is a crude ham-fisted ersatz that Lucia would be ashamed to know. Like so many tribute authors, he spends too much time showing us how much he knows about the universe he is trying to recreate (in this case, Tilling) and the characters with whom we are already familiar (else why buy the book?), trying to make us feel at home, but in doing so utterly destroys the delicate cobweb of the said and the unsaid that Benson created around his heroine. You don't baldly state out loud that Lucia is a scheming parvenu control freak. You leave it, as Benson did, for the reader to determine for himself. A much lighter touch is required, as demonstrated by Tom Holt's two Lucia books. "Lucia on Holiday" can only disappoint the true Luciaphile.
on 27 June 2012
i am a huge fan of Benson's books and I sooooooo wanted to love this - but I have to agree it was, despite a moment or two, a disappointment.
Taking the action out of Tilling and setting it in Italy was a bit like one of those soap opera specials where the cast gets sent to Benidorm....which never work somehow.
And the characters themselves lost all Benson's scalpel sharp wit and descended fast into caricature...
However eccentric, ridiculous, plotting or petty they are in their domestic dramas one always has a huge affection for the residents of Tilling: but this broad-brush slap-about stuff just didn't work for me and by the end I heartily disliked the lot
The plot was clunking, there were far too many references to incidents in previous books, which may have filled a few pages but served only to remind us what we were missing, and many of the sentences were rambling attempts at humour instead of Benson's incisive wit
When reading Tom Holt's work I could forget it was not by the hand of the master, but Lucia On Holiday failed to work the same magic.
it was a brave effort and more rigorous editing would have helped, but it tried far too hard and for me it missed its mark...