Happy New Year Book Lovers!

We all hope that everyone had a happy and safe festive break  – and that you got some excellent reading time in…

I spent my reading time indulging in what at first glance appear to be two utterly inimical series: Lee Child’s 17 Jack Reacher thrillers and EF leechildBenson’s six 1920s social comedies, the famous ‘Lucia’ novels.

I enjoyed myself enormously: several Jack Reacher’s followed by a Lucia, then repeat. I am not really sure which series I think is the most thriller-y: Jack Reacher stomping round the landscape, resolutely alone, righting wrongs and being very very violent in an oddly interesting way appears only slightly less scary, because he is so much more straightforward than the Benson habitués.

Lucia, Mapp, Georgiebenson1 bensonet al fighting to attain social supremacy (death by a thousand social cuts)  in the drawing rooms of Riseholme and Tilling, where every pleasant smile and honeyed word hides rancid intrigues and desperate plotting, are scary, funny and slightly sad. But oh, they are as devastatingly lethal with a put down as Reacher is with his military training and physical size.

In both the Child and Benson books there is a simple code: don’t mess with Reacher/Lucia and you’ll be left alone, if you take them on, you have only yourself to blame – not only are you (Lucia) socially humilated or (Reacher) badly hurt, probably dead, but it is all your own stupid fault – extra salt in the wounds…

Lee Child

Lee Child

Also noticed: both writers spend a lot of time on clothes (khaki/navy canvas trousers/ruby velvet suits) and food (cheeseburgers, tuna melts, coffee & fries/sardine tartlets, cream puffs, tea & lobster a la Riseholme) to set the scene (does Reacher ever eat a vegetable? how is that going to work if after all this righting of wrongs/defending of the weak he has a heart attack because he eats too many cheeseburgers?). Both Child (since 1997) and Benson (in the 1920s and 30s) are writing at the top of their game which is what makes all the various sillinesses such grand entertainment…

London Weekend Television made a most excellent TV series in the 1980s starring Geraldine McEwan as Lucia, Prunella Scales as Mapp and Nigel Hawthorne as Georgie, and Benson’s hometown of Rye as Tilling – if you haven’t already discovered the novels, devour them immediately and then watch the series:lucia

Not sure about the current leap of Jack Reacher to film, haven’t seen it and find it hard to summon any enthusiasm…

E.F. Benson

E.F. Benson

I was reorganising the books on my shelves (they are still mostly in spine-colour groupings except for the author collections like Lee Child, Patrick Leigh Fermour, Louise Penny, Eric Newby, the A to Z by author scheme never happened but now at least the books are not double-shelved – yes, some have left the family home to go out and seek their fortunes leaving the rest some breathing room…) and I found the Bensons stashed behind a pile of books that I had never bothered to shelve – what a treat to rediscover them – now I will try to get the two masterly Lucia sequels which Tom Holt wrote in the 1980s, Lucia in Wartime  and Lucia Triumphant.




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