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Review: Mrs. Ames, by EF Benson

Pages: 301

Original date of publication: 1912

My edition: 2010 (Bloomsbury Group)

Why I decided to read: It’s a part of the Bloomsbury Group books

How I acquired my copy: bookdepository, June 2010

I first heard about this book from another blogger, who mentioned that the Bloomsbury Group would be reprinting four more books this summer, of which Mrs. Ames is one. EF Benson wrote dozens of novels, of which his Mapp and Lucia series is most famous. Mrs. Ames is very similar to Mapp and Lucia; it concerns the social life of the town of Riseborough and several ladies’ attempts to be Queen Bee there. Mrs. Ames is the reigning queen of middle-upper class Riseborough, but her position is threatened by the arrival of Mrs. Evans.

The novel starts off a little shakily; at first I found it a little hard to get engaged by Benson’s writing style. But as I continued reading, I found myself loving this witty satire, in which people split hairs over whether one lives in a “street” or “a road.” Mrs. Evans’s social ascendency over the town of Riseborough seems accidental, so it’s no less funny when she has the upper hand over Mrs. Ames. One of my favorite characters in this book is Mrs. Altham, the middle-aged neighbor who equally aspires to the position of Queen Bee—but doesn’t ever get there and says nasty things about people behind their backs. This might get old after a while if the author’s tone hadn’t been quite so satirical—often, the joke is on Mrs. Altham, which makes parts of the book such a joy to read. Reading this book makes me look forward to reading more of EF Benson’s books—I’ve heard that the Mapp and Lucia series is especially good and so I think I’ll try to track down copies of some of those books.


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