Meanwhile in Tilling, clearly modelled on Benson’s home town of Rye, Miss Mapp consumed by ‘chronic rage and curiosity’ sits at her window, armed with her light-opera glasses keeping baleful watch on her neighbours. ‘Anger and the gravest suspicions about everybody had kept her young and on the boil’: and Benson transmutes her boiling into a series of small humiliations in his witty, malicious comedy.
In his insightful Introduction Keith Carabine shows that these books are excruciatingly funny because Benson, like Jane Austen, invites the reader to view the world through the self-deluded fabrications and day-dreams of Lucia and the self-deluded chronic anger and jaundiced suspicions of Elisabeth. Carabine also concentrates on the novels’ disturbing, bitchy, ‘camp’ humour whenever ‘that horrid thing which Freud calls sex’ is raised.
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