A delicious entertainment for lovers of E. F. Benson: Mapp at Fifty by Hugh Ashton
The love of E. F. Benson is so extreme and so all-consuming that many have attempted to "extend" the Lucia novels by taking the characters and their milieu and creating their own stories.
Now, fans may or may not be receptive to this idea, nut nonetheless it seems like writers who love Benson - similar to writers who love Austen - love nothing better than having a go at continuing the literary journeys begun by their beloved favourite author.
When it comes to E. F. Benson, we have, over the years, seen authors like Tom Holt and Guy Fraser-Sampson write "new" Lucia books. The latest writer in this tradition is Hugh Ashton, famous for his Sherlock Holmes pastiche's. This little (and it is very little - no more than a medium-sized short story) book, Mapp at Fifty, explores Miss Mapp's birthday party and the disastrous things that attend it. We even get to meet her sister, who is quite a surprising character.
It says much about Hugh's talent that, a couple of times, I thought I was reading Benson himself!
This was great fun, and a nice distraction. You can read it in about an hour. It is, however, one for the hardcore E. F. Benson fans. I think that someone reading it without knowing the Lucia novels would be quite perplexed.