Guy Fraser-Sampson Lucia on Holiday (2012)
It is a brave writer indeed who would take up the challenge of adding to E. F. Benson's canonical 'Mapp & Lucia' series. Fraser-Sampson is up to the task - tonally he carries it off exceptionally well, and the element of over-the-top mayhem is never far from the scene. It is almost as cruel as the originals. As pastiche it is excellent. Fraser-Sampson's Georgie is a particular delight, but then Georgie has always been my favourite ("He crossed his legs and shot out his cuffs perfectly at the same time, and was disappointed that nobody appeared to notice").
Fraser-Sampson takes Lucia at co. to an Italian lake resort on the eve of the 1929 financial collapse. There is some nice use of near-contemporary events - the thoroughly irritating Gabriele d’Annunzio is beautifully done:
Amelia had no time for any of this and was prone to interject ‘Pah!’ or ‘Balderdash!’ into other people’s statements, and she seemed to have quite decided views on Italian politics which, while Lucia knew nothing of such matters, were clearly at variance with d’Annunzio’s. She was pro-Mussolini because he had made the trains run on time. D’Annunzio was anti-Mussolini because Mussolini had tried to kill him by throwing him out of a window. When this fact had been made clear, the party gathered around the dinner table in the saloon had fallen silent, clearly weighing the pros and cons of each position, and most siding mentally with Mussolini on the grounds of justifiable homicide.
There are some wonderful scenes involving hashish and Georgie's quite unwarranted reputation as a Lothario to either sex:
Francesco brought an ashtray over to the balcony table, and leant close to place it beside him, so close that Georgie could clearly smell his perfume. He wondered if it might be one of those new French colognes, and what it might be like to wear a daring cologne himself rather than just boring old toilet water.
‘I did enjoy your recital with Miss Bracely, sir,’ his valet murmured respectfully. ‘I had no idea you were such a talented pianist in addition to your painting skills.’
‘Thank you,’ Georgie replied awkwardly into Francesco’s shirt front. He found his heart was suddenly beating more quickly, doubtless as a result of his agitation.
‘Tell me, sir,’ Francesco enquired softly. ‘You are clearly such a sensitive gentleman. Do you possess any other particular ... artistic tastes?’
This at least was an easy question to answer. ‘Why, yes,’ Georgie said brightly. ‘How clever of you to guess. Actually, do you know, I’m very fond of needlepoint.’
Francesco moved away and said, ‘Indeed, sir’ as he gently closed the French window.