Catching Up

I’ve found that this lockdown period has affected my blogging as I haven’t been writing about the books I’ve read recently. I’ve been doing posts that don’t really need much concentration – lists of books, book beginnings and so on. So now I have a few books that I’ve read but not reviewed. Here’s what I thought about two of them. These are just brief reviews – more like notes really.

Queen Lucia

Queen Lucia has been on my radar for years ever since I began blogging and I bought a copy several years ago. When I saw that Simon and Karen were hosting the 1920 Club I realised it would be ideal as it was first published in 1920. However, time got the better of me and I finished reading it too late to add it the 1920 Book Club – but better late than never. 

I know other bloggers love E F Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books, but they have never really appealed to me. I don’t read many comic novels. But I did enjoy it more than I thought I would, although I think his style of writing is an acquired taste, using satire, irony, exaggerations and ridicule to expose people’s stupidities or vices – not my usual genre of books.  However, it is easy reading and it took my mind off the horrors of the coronavirus whilst I was reading. It is a book of its time and definitely not PC by today’s standards.

Queen Lucia is actually Mrs Emmeline Lucas, who presides over the residents of the village of Riseholme as its self-appointed queen. She is a most unlikeable character, totally self-centred and manipulative, aided by her friend, George Pillson who worships her. But as the events described in the novel unfold he rebels and works to undermine her. I disliked her pretentious tastes and her lust for power. She irritated me immensely with her baby talk, her pretence that she can speak Italian and her methods of riding roughshod over everyone. A rather more sympathetic character is Daisy Quantock, who introduces a mysterious Indian guru to the village before Lucia managed to present him as her protege.

The whole book has an artificial and silly feel about it but about half way through I found I was just going with the flow as I really  wanted to know what happened next. There are five more Mapp and Lucia novels, and as I’ve found an e-book containing all six for just 49p – Make Way for Lucia, I shall probably read more of them sometime.

The Dutch House

I decided to read The Dutch House by Ann Patchett as so many other bloggers have written glowing reviews, but I wasn’t as keen on it as others. Its about a dysfunctional family.  The Conroys, Danny, Maeve and their mother, Elna and father, Cyril  who lived in the Dutch House, but when Danny was just three his mother left home.  Cyril remarried, and his second wife, Andrea, the mother of two young girls, was the epitome of the  wicked stepmother. When their father dies he leaves the Dutch House, to Andrea.  She shows her true  colours and insists Danny and Maeve have to move out of their home. The house itself is described in detail. It was built by a Dutch couple called VanHoebeek in 1922 when it was in the open country just outside Philadelphia and their presence is still a strong influence on  the Conroy family.

The novel moves backwards and forwards in time, from 1946 to the present, and at times I was not sure what happened when (probably my lack of concentration caused my confusion). Danny and Maeve are both obsessed with the house, to the detriment of their own lives. Their mother, Elna meanwhile had a totally different reaction to the house, never liking it and I was intrigued about her – what made her leave her children – and I was suspicious about that had happened to her and even if she was she still alive. The pain her children felt when she left to be replaced by a wicked stepmother is immense. But it is the loss of their inheritance rather than the loss of their mother, that has left them with bitterness, and anger.

I thought the book began well, but somewhere in the middle and definitely towards the end I did get rather bored with the story, so much so that I was relieved to finish it. It was not just such a good choice of book for me – or maybe it was the wrong time for me to read it.

14 thoughts on “Catching Up

  1. Sorry to hear these books didn’t really do it for you, Margaret. I’ve had that happen, too, where I had to really push myself to finish a book. I know what you mean, too, about the lockdown’s effect. For some reason it’s harder to concentrate, and one’s ordinary schedule’s disrupted, so everything feels ‘off.’ And that’s not to mention the anxiety that goes with it all. Little wonder it’s hard to focus.

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  2. I totally know what you mean about writing during all of this—’easier’ posts have certainly been my friend, though I’m finally feeling like I’m able to focus on reviews, too. And what a treat seeing Queen Lucia today! I had never heard of the series before a few weeks ago when I saw it recommended in a book I was reading … though the name escapes me right now. Fantastic set of reviews. Looking forward to getting around to Mapp and Lucia even more now—silly sounds perfect.

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  3. I’ve read two or three Mapp and Lucia books. I enjoyed them well enough to start off with but eventually my reaction became similar to yours, irritation with the sillness of Lucia, and I just found I hadn’t the patience needed to carry on. I do, however, love E.F. Benson’s ghost stories… ‘those’ are brilliant.

    As to The Dutch House, I’ve seen it everywhere and can’t decide whether or not it’s for me. I quite enjoyed her State of Wonder. I’ll think on it.

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    1. I’ll look out for E F Benson’s ghost stories, thanks for letting me know about them. I’ve only read one of Ann Patchett’s books before, The Magician’s Assistant, which I enjoyed and I have two more in my TBRs – Run and Bel Canto.Maybe wait until the libraries re-open and have a look then to see if you think you’d like it …

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  4. I’ve read enough reviews about the Mapp and Lucia books to know that they are definitely not for me so I haven’t bothered with them and I think at a time like this they would probably irritate me even more than normally. I’m sorry you didn’t like The Dutch House, however, I’d be hard put now to say why I I did so engrossing, but I couldn’t put it down. As with Hardy, we’ll have to agree to differ 🙂

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    1. We can agree to differ, although I didn’t dislike The Dutch House, rather that i found it depressing. and that is odd because Hardy is a pessimist but I don’t find his books that depressing.

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  5. I recently read the Dutch House as well and although I overall enjoyed it, I do agree that it dragged at times and seemed like it could have been cut shorter. It was my first Ann Patchett book!

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  6. Good reviews. Glad I’m not the only one who didn’t swoon over Dutch House. Good–yes? As good as it could/should have been. I threw it back in part for that and in part because I’m apparently the only listener who wasn’t thrilled to bits with Tom Hanks less than great reading.

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  7. I find the Lucia books hilarious, especially the later ones. Having moved to a very small town in recent years I’ve been amazed to discover that it seems to be peopled by quite a few of the Benson characters. I suppose there are only so many ‘types’.

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