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Desirable Residences by E. F. Benson

Desirable Residences

by E. F. Benson

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A mixed bag of Benson short stories. The "new" MIss Mapp story will not be new for many of the fans of Mapp and Lucia since it is now included in many of the compilations of that series. The Dodo stories can be hard sledging for those who are not already deeply steeped in Dodo-ism and the Spook Stories are not, in the opinion of this reviewer, among his "spookiest." The Amy Bondham stories are best read in light of Benson's fascination with social climbers (see The Freaks of Mayfair.)

On the other hand there are some real gems among the stories collected here and some, including The Superannuation Department, AD 1945 and The Satyr's Sandals, remind the reader that the walls between genres were far more permeable in Benson's times than they are today.

Not, I think, the best place to start Benson had one never read him before but a welcome addition to the libraries of Benson enthusiasts. ( )
1 vote mmyoung | Nov 6, 2011 |
27 stories from magazines and not published in book form. The title story is about Miss Mapp's machinations to rent out her home and make a profit. There are also ghost stories, a science-fiction story and lots of society stories. ( )
  raizel | Nov 13, 2008 |
I had tried to read a Mapp and Lucia book by Tom Holt some time ago and found it mediocre at best, so I did not have high expectations for these E.F. Benson stories. They shattered my expectations. This is an absolutely delicious book. Each story is a study in characterization, word choice, and wit. A choice sentence from the first page: "Vice taken in undiluted tumblerfuls palled on the jaded palate."

Most of the stories are satires of high society, and Benson manages to cut right to the quick in each one. Others capture little points of human nature with complete precision even though the circumstances in the stories are not that realistic. Two sections of the book, "Odd Stories" and "Spook Stories," are equally good but completely different from the others. The "odd stories" are dreamlike and fantastical, and "spook stories" are just that--ghost stories.

Read this book! ( )
  carlym | Aug 9, 2008 |
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The more intelligent sections of London society were beginning to get a little tired of the discussion of plays which dealt exclusively with drunkards, drug-fiends and other disreputable folk. [from first story, Entomology]
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0192829777, Paperback)

For some years after his death in 1940, E.F. Benson was a forgotten man of English letters, remembered only by a few enthusiasts of his supernatural fiction. But over the last decade this has all changed, as successful TV adaptations of his comic masterpieces, the "Mapp and Lucia" stories, have transformed his reputation and led to the reissue of his best comic novels. Now, Jack Adrian, an authority on twentieth-century popular fiction, has brought together twenty-six of Benson's delightful short stories, some of which are newly discovered, and most of which have never been published in book form.
In Desirable Residences we find all of Benson's archetypical characters--absurd, gossipy socialites, appalling meddlers, and hapless males--sketched with a fine satirical wit, and juxtaposed in hilarious short stories. Benson's typical tale involves the humorous misadventures of his sorry, but lovable crew of main characters. One story relates the catastrophe which ensues when a pair of misogynistic bachelors mistakenly think they have solved their domestic problems by investing in the latest household appliances ("electricity," they hoped, would "take the place of a staff of greedy, incompetent females"). Adrian includes several of Benson's society stories (such as "The Drawing Room Bureau," in which a feud develops between two fashionable women over who will be able to divulge the most classified information from their "sources" at the War Office), and four depicting "The Diversions of Amy Bondham," a meddlesome social climber who is revived on her death bed when her husband reads to her the lineage of the Duke she has just visited. A typically pointed Benson passage has Amy complaining of the dreary social scene: "There had been so many pianists, so many singers, so many operations, and though a play by West African cannibals was a novelty, there would be risks in asking these artists to her house....She would never forgive herself if any of her guests were killed or eaten." Benson's taste for the bizarre is well represented, and the collection includes three of his ghost stories (which he like to call "spook stories"). Throughout, Benson creates memorable, often absurd characters--from the unfortunate Miss Mapp (featured in the title story) to the priceless Dodo to humorous hypochondriacs like Dicky Pepys and Bertram Potter.
Like his dozens of novels, these stories show Benson to be a master of many genres--from the society spoof to the chilling supernatural tale. These never-before-collected stories will only increase the burgeoning popularity of this once forgotten author.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:32 -0400)

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