Thursday 7 September 2017

How terribly interesting little things are

Queen Lucia EF Benson's book follows the life of the quiet village of Riseholme, where "nothing ever happens". Mrs Emmeline Lucas (Lucia) is self-appointed queen, ruling the villagers in matters of culture and entertainment.

Lucia is a snob. She professes to speak Italian, although in truth only a few words, her superior knowledge of music is accepted on the basis of her ability to play only the first movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, and she imposes her taste by disdaining the gramophone and new composers such as Debussy. With her right-hand-man Georgie she ensures that she is the leading light in the cultural and social life of the village. But revolution brews in Riseholme with the arrival of opera singer Olga Bracely.

EF Benson relates the story from no specific character's point of view, which allows the reader to know everyone's thoughts. For me this produced a delicious anticipation as to how each one would handle embarrassing and humiliating situations. The cast are so well written that I couldn't help but care about them in the face of their trifling problems. I felt sad for Georgie and I despaired over Daisy Quantock's unquestioning acceptance of self-improvement fads. There was also a point at which I wanted Lucia to be deposed, such was her nasty interpretation of other characters' actions.

To be sure, nothing much happens in the story, but on reaching the end I realised, "how terribly interesting little things were".

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