Oh bliss O rapture, O rapture O bliss - another Mapp and Lucia. Calloo Callay oh Frabjous Day she chortled in her joy...
After my rather late discovery of the Divine Duo, about which I posted here, I laid waste to every Mapp and Lucia book I could find but of course there are only six. SIX! I ask you what was Fred (EF Benson) thinking? He could have trebled that amount and we would still have been gasping for more, but luckily one author, by the name of Tom Holt, came along with Lucia Triumphant and Lucia in Wartime to keep us going. Brilliantly written, hard to tell if I was presented with an untitled manuscript that I would be able to spot that it was not the original author, and I chased these down and bought them.
But that was that, no more thought I. WRONG. Along comes Guy Fraser-Sampson, who I think should be knighted for service to literature (Sir Guy of Tilling?) and he wrote a book all about Major Benjy, which has kept me going for a year or two. Flushed with success he has now written Lucia on Holiday which has had so many pre-orders that its publisher has brought forward publication date. So many fans out there and delighted to hear it.
I was fortunate enough to receive a copy a week or so ago and fell upon it with shrieks of joy (these are the times when I think it just as well I live on my own) and sat down and read it through in one sitting. Brilliant, quite quite brilliantly wonderful.
Lucia has made rather a lot of money on the stock market so she and Georgie decide to splash out and take a holiday abroad. Off they go to Bellagio, near Milan, a location cunningly decided upon by Georgie and Olga Bracely, the world renowned opera singer. At first Lucia is dubious:
"I hardly think that Milan is our sort of place.....one must be very careful when visiting unknown locations on the Continent...Why it might be positively full of Italians"
Georgie was taken aback. " Well, it is in Italy you know" he said with some asperity "I understand most Italian towns have a quite high proportion of Italian inhabitants"
Lucia looked at him severely. "Don't be silly Georgie" she admonished him "I mean the wrong sort of Italians, naturally"....
Well off they go but to their total astonishment and dismay Major Benjy and Elisabeth Mapp turn up. They are being treated to an all expenses paid holiday by a Maharajah who the Major knew in India, in return for looking after his son Ramesh. The Wyses are also there with the Contessa ("cholera in Capri") so by the time the Mapp-Flints arrive we have Tilling in microcosm settled in at the Bellagio and we can sit back and wait for the fun, the gossip, the infighting, the vying for centre stage to begin. And it does.
This is a simply delicious book and I loved every single word. Georgie has the most wonderful suave, rather glamorous valet to take care of all his personal needs (Lucia disapproves), the Major flirts outrageously with a young lady who is under the mistaken impression that he is rich and wealthy and worth cultivating (mainly because the Major has driven the Maharajah's Bugatti to Bellagio), Poppy the Duchess of Sheffield in love with Georgie and his beard turns up much to his dismay - the Bellagio is populated with all these characters that are so dear and familiar and wonderful and it was a joy to see them again.
There are many instances of continuations of books by other authors - Jane Austen is probably the one who has suffered because of this. I say suffered because with only a few exceptions, the sequels are pretty poor. The there are the Lord Peter Wimsey stories by Jill Paton Walsh who has taken up the DL Sayers baton with excellent results. The Dick Francis genre continues with his son now writing the books and they are marketed still as the 'latest Dick Francis' which I think is fraudulent to say the least, but as there has always been doubt that Dick actually wrote the books anyway, I suppose he gets away with it - just.
I freely admit that my approval or not of this practice is purely personal and relies on my preferences. I love the Wimsey books by Paton Walsh, and I love anything that will allow me to wallow in the lives of the inhabitants of Tilling for a little longer. Guy Fraser-Sampson seems to me to be a Renaissance Man with his wide ranging interests and I understand that his Mapp and Lucia books are a planned trilogy which means we have one more to go. I wonder if he can be persuaded to make this a quadrology or a quintology....yes I know those words don't exist, but I hope I make my point.
I might also add that Guy is the author of a book called Cricket at the Crossroads which I have also read and reviewed here and I think it is highly unlikely that you will come across somebody with such an eclectic range of interests - I am hoping that he will combine the two and let Lucia form the Tilling Cricket Team in her next book. I think she would make a demon bowler...
Loved loved loved this book and all fans of Mapp and Lucia and Tilling will be glad to add this to their bookshelves. Lucia is as infuriating and as wonderful as ever, Mapp as awful as ever (there are times however, when I do feel sorry for her as she never ever gets the better of Lucia), Georgie a delight and I take great delight in the hugely laid back opera singer, Olga Bracely. I hope this sells in millions and trillions as it deserves to do so.
I leave you with one more quote. Georgie is being taken on a tour of Italian gardens and hating it:
"He took out his handkerchief and mopped his forehead. At this stage Lucia, who if truth be told was beginning to feel a trifle warm herself even though she had taken certain liberties with her undergarments, became a model of solicitude"
I do wonder what the 'certain liberties' were I really do.