RogerBW's Blog

Queen Lucia, E. F. Benson 03 April 2019

1920 comedy, first of the series. Mrs Lucas, "Lucia" to all, is the social arbiter of the village of Riseholme – in spite of the best efforts of her subjects.

It is one of my truisms that I cannot find it in me to care about characters who aren't at least a bit sympathetic, and that is indeed a problem here. These people are almost entirely without positive features: they drift from fad to fad while gossiping about who said what to whom, they're terribly impressed with each other's meagre talents at music or poetry, and they actually do… nothing of interest. Only Georgie Pillson, the crypto-gay admirer of Lucia with his hair dye and toupet (sic), comes close to being at all interesting, and that's only because he has Terrible Doubts.

The bird-like eye produced its compelling effect on Georgie. So short a time ago he had indulged in revolutionary ideas, and had contemplated having the Guru and Olga Bracely to dinner, without even asking Lucia: now the faint stirrings of revolt faded like snow in summer.

Another element I tend to dislike in comedy, the person set up to fail and unknowingly proceeding into that failure, is mostly absent, which helps; and I didn't dislike this anything like as much as I usually do this genre. So that's good. (Indeed, I read it because it was highly recommended by multiple people whose judgement I generally respect.) And the Queen Bee is of course a timeless archetype.

I don't know. This is why I tell people that I have no sense of humour: there are many things I find funny, but deliberate comedy like this leaves me mostly cold. It's not so much that I can readily see myself as the butt of the joke, though that's part of it; it's that only very rare comic writers can balance the character development that I crave with the need for characters to act stupidly in order to get laughs.

Followed indirectly by Miss Mapp. Freely available from Project Gutenberg.

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