Wednesday, the 1st of September, and time for Shelf Control once again! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, when you got it, and such. If you participate, don’t forget to link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks as well!

Today my pick is a book by an author whose books I’ve enjoyed very much before and have been keen to read more of. This one has been on my TBR for a while now but am yet to get to it. The book is Mrs Ames by E.F. Benson. English author, biographer, and archaeologist Edward Frederic Benson was born at Wellington College, Berkshire, and educated at Templegrove School, Marlborough College, and King’s College, Cambridge. Starting with Sketches from Marlborough, published in 1888, Benson went on to write numerous novels and short-story collections, including the Mapp and Lucia series, for which he is best known. He also wrote biographies including of Sir Francis Drake, Queen Victoria, and Charlotte Bronte (I think I have an e-copy of the last somewhere as well).

Mrs Ames, first published in 1912, has been described as a forerunner to the author’s Mapp and Lucia novels. This book sees us in the small village of Riseborough (the predecessor of Riseholme in the Mapp and Lucia books) where Mrs Ames is the queen bee, presiding over dinners, parties, and all social life. Then to the village comes the vivacious and captivating, Mrs Evans. Mrs Evans not only catches the eye of Mrs Ames’ husband and son, but slowly begins to become her rival for the throne of Riseborough. Then the whole village is invited to Mrs Evans costume party and Mrs Ames must act to win back her throne and her husband!

This is another of Benson’s social comedies with women battling it out for social supremacy in the village; I’ve enjoyed his Mapp and Lucia books very much (I revisited a few of these last year here, here, and here) and also The Freaks of Mayfair which were sketches of a bunch of curious characters from snobs to faddists (also reflecting some of those that later appeared in Mapp and Lucia). And Mrs Ames sounds like it will be on the same lines, so I think it will be a fun read as well. Reviewers have described it as being like Mapp and Lucia but more ‘serious’ and ‘poignant’ so I am curious to see how it turns out, and also how it compares with its more famous successors.

Have you read this one or any of Benson’s other books? Which one/s and how did you like them? Any books that you’d recommend on the same lines–comedies involving battles of social one-upmanship? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations.

Cover image from Goodreads; book info from Bloomsbury, and author info from Wikipedia

Lisa’s pick this week is The Birchbank House by Louise Erdrich, which gives us a view of the world of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, but from the perspective of a little Ojibwa girl.

10 thoughts on “Shelf Control #149: Mrs Ames by E.F. Benson

  1. I did try and then stalled on one of his Mapp & Lucia novels (I haven’t totally given up on it though) but I enjoyed his crime novella The Blotting Book, set in Sussex.

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    1. This whole set is very pretty.
      Mapp and Lucia are great fun; as characters I prefer Lucia to Mapp, and in some ways the riseholme residents to the tilling ones since the former seem to get upto more interesting antics

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