Lucia’s Progress is book 5 in Benson’s Mapp and Lucia series, telling of the further adventures of Emmeline Lucas, ‘Lucia’, as she pits her wits against her arch-rival Elizabeth Mapp-Flint (now married to major Benjy) to be ‘queen’ of Tilling. As this instalment opens, Lucia is about to turn fifty and realises that while she has been doing her bit (more than her bit, in fact) in the social life of Tilling—from leading social life with her musical evenings and lessons, to reading to the inmates of the work house, delivering lectures, singing in the choir and also engaging in her own studies and music—she hasn’t made the best use of her energies. And so starts her new adventure—this time on the stock market as she makes various investments with her shrewd advisor’s help (all the while making out that he is acting on her advice) but this is sufficient to pique Tilling’s interest as all the rest begin to follow in her path, including Elizabeth Mapp-Flint who once again acts but without thinking it out, while Diva follows too but wavers. But that is only the beginning, for Mrs Mapp-Flint finds herself in a position where she just might be able to get one step ahead of Lucia. Life in Tilling moves on alongside with their Bridge parties, and the homeowners (most of them) letting out their houses in the summer for a nice change as well as some extra income. But when Lucia and Elizabeth Mapp-Flint take their ‘contest’ a step ahead by contesting against each other for Town Council, things take a more serious turn, threatening to make Tilling life bitter as well, for like it or not, without the two there isn’t much of it. How does the election turn out? And who comes out in top in Tilling this time?
This outing was once again a great deal of fun, and once again, because of Miss Mapp, rather Mrs Mapp-Flint’s mean/nasty streak, I found myself supporting Lucia though even she had moments when she took things a step too far. But still, even when she wants to lead, she doesn’t wish anyone ill or any harm, and so one finds one can cheer her on while even when Elizabeth Mapp isn’t getting the better end of things one doesn’t feel particularly sorry for her. Also Lucia (even if she does get her ideas from outside), is still quite original, while Mapp simply borrows from others in Tilling, most times merely to pull them down, or is happy to create certain impressions which she knows to be untrue right from the start. But one does feel for poor major Benjy though, as life as Elizabeth’s husband isn’t the pleasantest of things, and he manages to make a few blunders getting himself into a soup. Meanwhile Lucia and Georgie realise how much they value each other, and there are some changes in that relationship too. One of my favourite characters from the first book, Olga Bracely finds a mention too, and we know her to be still living in Riseholme.
Overall I enjoyed their antics in this one except on a couple of occasions; Lucia’s archaeological adventures were especially good fun, and how she handled the whole thing (although there was some deception in it after all) was all the more so. I don’t think Miss Mapp (I find myself thinking of her as that too, like ‘quaint Irene’) has the talent to handle things quite that way. Meanwhile with the ending–I won’t say what—the stage is set for a new set of adventures, sadly, the last one. But I still have book 3 to revisit in the middle, and while ending a series does make one a little sad, being books, one knows one can always start all over again!
Incidentally, I only noticed on this read that floods must be a fairly common occurrence in Tilling/Rye, for our residents seem to always be impacted. I don’t remember if this happens in the last book too—must keep a look out!
Have you read this one? Or others in the series? Which ones and how did you like them? Looking forward to your thoughts!