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Mrs. Ames

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  247 ratings  ·  50 reviews

E. F. Benson, best known for his irresistible Mapp and Lucia novels set in the fictional town of Tilling, England, was a prolific and beloved novelist. Though the Mapp and Lucia books remain popular to this day, this kindred book will be back in print for the first time since its initial publication.

The son of E. W. Benson, archbishop of Canterbury from 1883 to 1896, the

Paperback, 320 pages
Published December 21st 2010 by Bloomsbury USA
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  247 ratings  ·  50 reviews

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Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humour
This reads like a forerunner to the Mapp and Lucia series. An Edwardian social comedy where the characters are vying for social supremacy and looking for the next big thing. Mrs Ames is considered top of the pile, but will a newish arrival knock her off her. Perch?
The story went in a direction I didn't expect and was deeper than the Mapp and Lucia series, but it lacks the sparkle an charm of those books. It is very good all the same, and I think anyone who enjoyed those will like this one too.
Mar 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Just as funny but much more poingnant than the author's Lucia series, "Mrs. Ames" fully explores a real person with plenty of inner conflicts and not a little intelligence, both social and otherwise. Benson explores his usual milieu, the small British village in the Edwardian era, with all the societal rivalries and jockeying for position that are his trademark. The main character, and the careful delineation of how boredom can lead the most innocent to the edge of the social abyss, make "Mrs. ...more
Apr 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
How does the reader decide if a book is good? It depends as much upon the reader's meaning of the word "good" as it does on the book. A book that is deeply moving to one person can be leaden to another. A book which excites the interest of one person will be dull reading to the next. For a reader (such as I) who likes to sit down after finishing a book, rate it and write a review of it, answering the question as to why I enjoyed a book can take longer than did reading the book.

That said--why did
Jan 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-inventory

Who was at whose party last night with whom? For the residents of Riseborough, the answer to that question and other gossipy tidbits like it is their prime preoccupation during days spent in the relatively otherwise unexciting little town. Chief among the participants are the women who vie for social superiority, engaging in small social battles to ensure their standing. (My favorite example of this is the feud that occurs between Mrs. Altham and Mrs. Ames on the subject of punctuality. "About
Jul 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
May be EF Benson's best, in that the intricacies of interior life and social issues--specifically, the Suffragette Movement-- intersect in Benson's usual witty and oppositional, contradictory way. Some is broad satire, here of Mrs Ames: "In appearance she was like a small, good-looking toad in half-mourning; or, to state the comparison with greater precision, she was small for a woman, but good-looking for a toad." Or, "For the next week, Mrs Altham was thoroughly in her element. She had ...more
Jan 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, first-reads
E.F. Bensons novel makes a good change of pace. Its a simple story, not too complex in terms of plot or description. Yet, hes very good at subtle humor and satire, which is interspersed throughout the text. Its like watching an episode of Cranford and Lark Rise to Candleford.

At times, Bensons descriptions can be rather blunt in their franknessand quite evil. Take this description of Mrs. Ames: In appearance, she was like a small, good-looking toad in half-mourning [] she was small for a woman,
Amanda J
Jan 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to Amanda J by: Goodreads First Reads Program
A mediocre middle leaves me underwhelmed... I rated this 3 stars, but it was more like 2.5. There were definately parts of the book I really enjoyed, but I felt like the middle was slow and I kept wondering if the charcters would ever actually DO anything. Right about the time I thought nothing new was ever going to happen, the book picked up and I started to enjoy it in the way I had at the beginning. While there are other authors, like Molly Keane or PD Wodehouse, I would pick up before E.F. ...more
Jan 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Written by the son of an Archbishop of Canterbury, this is a delightful read. I have always loved English humor. It is tongue in cheek, dry and often not obvious. Because of this, reading it will require some amount of patience, which I believe will be well worthwhile. Also, the printed page is not easy on the eyes because the font and style make the letters appear too tight, in my edition, anyway. Other than that I am loving it.
There are an abundance of double entendres. I have not laughed out
Apr 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed Mapp and Lucia and thought this would be as light hearted as that. It was in the beginning, the narrator describing the rather trivial motivations and petty jealousies of the society people of Riseborough and the routines of their days, but once you arrived at the night time costume garden party everything changed. It was fascinating to follow the development of Millie's idle flirtation into something much more serious and the Major's being reluctantly dragged along into it until he ...more
Camille de Fleurville
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
A pre-Lucia and Mapp novel with the same ingredients but less hilarious - if Benson's humour, always in the understatement, may be called hilarious - perhaps because less mature. However, there comes a portrait and pains of a woman, and the novel takes a new direction. Not as funny as Lucia & Co but perhaps more rounded and definitely not Wodehousian.

I am glad I re-read this book. I shall probably make a post of it on my blog and link it here.

When I first read this novel, I was enthralled by
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
This book was published in 1912, and I presume it's set then or shortly before. It takes place in a small, English town, and is largely humorous in tone. The intro compares the writer repeatedly to Wodehouse, but as I've not read any Wodehouse, I have no idea if the comparison is apt.

I only laughed out loud once, but I was amused through the entire read.

More surprising than my amusement, though, (since the author clearly intended to be amusing) is how deftly the characters are drawn and how
Jan 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved the Mapp and Lucia books that E.F. Benson wrote and was so delighted to "win" a preview copy of an earlier work that the author wrote around 1912. Set in the little town of Risebourough, UK, Mrs. Ames is considered the leader of society and innovator of all things social until Dr. and Mrs. Evans take up residence and challenge her "throne." Major Ames is slowly seduced by Mrs. Evans beauty and recruited to join her in planning a garden party that will upset his wife's social queen ...more
Bee Ridgway
Sep 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
If you are obsessed with Lucia, and to a lesser degree Mapp, this book will both scratch your itch and interest you greatly. It's a dry run for Lucia and Riseholme in general -- but this is more than just an author taking a run up to his masterpiece. It feels a bit more malicious, more invested in its critique than the ultimately nostalgic Lucia books. Plus people in this book actually have a mild sex drive -- and sex is so hilariously absent from Lucia books that it is interesting to see it at ...more
Dec 11, 2010 rated it liked it
I found out I won this on First Reads yesterday. I am excited to read it, as I have never read anything by this author!

ETA...02/08/2011. I have really enjoyed this book. I am wrapping it up today and all I can say is that it reminds me of an early 1900's Desperate Housewives, but better! For some reason, and I am not sure why..I also keep thinking of the townfolk in the 1950's version of The Music Man, but I couldn't tell you why...something about the interactions.
Oct 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
gentle comedy written in 1912. Mrs Ames' position as queen bee of her little world is challenged by a newcomer who attracts the attentions of both Mrs Ames' son and husband. Will hair dye and face cream help her regain her rightful place or are more drastic measures called for? I was surprised how similar this felt to Desperate Housewives.
Jan 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: dead-tree
Copy won on Goodreads Giveaway.

An amusing story about social oneupmanship in a British village. The humor is really on the "comedy of manners" side. I might check out Benson's more well-known Mapp & Lucia novels, but from Mrs. Ames I didn't feel as satisfied with the ha-has as I do when I read Wodehouse.
Feb 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013, england
"Mrs. Ames is queen of Riseborough society. Sceptre firmly grasped in her podgy little hand, she reighns supreme in a world of strawberry teas, high street gossip and riotous insurrections by misguided pretenders like Mrs. Altham, Miss Brooks and dear cousin Millie. But Mrs. Ames is also ten years older than her husband, and beginning to feel all her fifty-seven autumns. Her hair is, she has to admit, grey. Worse, Major Lyndhurst Percy Ames, once content to exhaust his manly vigour on the flower ...more
Rebecca H.
Mar 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Mrs. Ames is the second book by E.F. Benson that Ive read; a couple years ago I read his Queen Lucia and enjoyed it quite a lot (I received Mrs. Ames through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program). Mrs. Ames, published in 1912, covers much the same territory as Queen Lucia, published 8 years later. Both books are about small-town English life among the leisured classes. They are about gossip, dinner parties, and social rivalry. Neither book delves into anything terribly deep, dramatic, or ...more
Michael Cohen
Mar 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
E. F. Bensons subject is always the petty concerns of petty people, but his talent is to make those concerns nearly as important to us as they are to his characters. For us, what happens to Bensons people is also much funnier than it is to them.
As with the Mapp and Lucia books Benson began to write in the 1920s, Mrs. Ames (1912) deals with the struggle of two women to be the dominant social maven in their little town. Millie Evans and Amy Ames are cousins and rivals for the title of supreme
Catherine Siemann
Feb 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Years ago, I'd read a few of Benson's Mapp and Lucia books. On the face of it, this is something similar -- a comedy about charming, witty, but small-minded people in a struggle for social dominance in a small English village. But the book also deals interestingly with women and their fear of aging. (It's interesting that a 29 year old man chose to write about forty- and fifty-something women.) There's a point when Mrs. Ames has gotten involved with the suffragette movement and found herself ...more
Mar 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
Mrs. Ames is the second book I have received from the Early Reviewers published by The Bloomsbury Group and each time I am impressed with the stories they have selected because I know I would have not otherwise chosen to read it on my own. On top of this, I love their book covers. The designs are always so wonderful.

The story itself is about the society of a town called Riseborough in England. The title character, Mrs. Ames, is married to Major Ames and he soon begins to flirt with Mrs. Ames'
Dec 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
I am a lifelong fan of Benson's Mapp and Lucia novels. A few of them (Miss Mapp, Mapp and Lucia, Lucia in London) I read over and over and over. So, I was very excited when The Bloomsbury Group introduced a new edition of Benson's 1912 novel, Mrs. Ames. I had GREAT expectations.

Alas, where is the wit?
Where are the witticisms?
Where happened to the clever social one-upsmanship?

The snarkiness was there (in Mrs. Ames), but without the good-natured fun. Mrs. Ames was published 10-20 years earlier
Jan 10, 2011 rated it did not like it
Even with the understanding that this book is a product of its time, it was painful to get through. The storyline was loose - there wasn't really any action, no climax to work towards, and no resolution. When I read the description, I expected there to be some humour in it: it is the story of a woman in a small town in Edwardian England who must always be the focus of society. I pictured Wodehouse-like situations, but unfortunately, nothing so clever happens here. Dinner parties are frequently ...more
Dec 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-read, classics
I received this book as a Goodreads First Read. The Bloomsbury Group has been reprinting books from the early 20th century, including this title. I very much enjoyed E.F.Benson's "Mapp and Lucia" series so looked forward to this book. I was not disappointed. "Mrs. Ames" is another comedy of manners written by a master of the genre. The observations of the characters are biting, and there's just enough story to show the characters to best (or worst) advantage. Definitely a book that should not ...more
Krisette Spangler
Aug 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: humor
It's hard to rate a novel of this type. I'm a huge fan of E.F. Benson's Lucia novels, but I didn't enjoy this one nearly as much. There were some great moments of delicious laughter at the gossips that make up this small town in England, however the subject matter of the novel made me a little uncomfortable. The basis of the story centers around whether Major Ames and Mrs. Evans will leave their current spouses for a love affair. I never enjoy this subject matter, and yet everything comes right ...more
I tried. I really did. But I just cannot get into this book. On the outside, the story is very Austen-sque. A contained community of people who all have their roles but someone new comes in and starts to change the dynamic and chaos ensues. The thing is, the writing is heavy and long-winded. The characters are flat and make no sense. Why does Major Ames do what he does? I don't know and I don't care. Sadly, this is going onto my not-finished shelf and staying there.
Deana David Lissenberg
Sep 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: period-comedy
VERY entertaining - but I love everything I've read by E.F. Benson. This is very similar to the Mapp & Lucia series-- different characters of course. And this one has a strange, unusual for Benson, almost political thread running through it as the main character gets more and more involved in women's suffrage. It's not overpowering or repellent, but it was unexpected for me. If you like period comedy, I highly recommend this. And a trip to Rye, England.
Mar 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Published in 1912, this is set in a small town in England and is a social satire with a witty, arch, campy tone. While initially it appears to be about a competitive battle between a self-confident woman and a jealous rival over who can give the best dinner parties, things get more serious as the protagonist faces issues of aging and a straying husband and, at least for a while, finds meaning in the suffragette movement.
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
I had a hard time getting into this book and may have to try it again in a few months. The characters were enjoyable and the storyline entertaining but the older writing style made it hard for me to stick to this. (Perhaps this is because I typically only get 15-20min. intervals in which to read... Maybe if I had 30-60min at a time that would have been better?)
Jan 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
A goodreads winner of this book.

The started off so slow for me. I just couldn't get into it! The story started heating up in the middle. The ending was so-so. I don't understand why didn't Mrs. Ames let her husband just go off with Mrs. Evans and be done with a husband who didn't love her. He would have been to one in ruins not her. He ran off not her. Why hold onto him?
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Edward Frederic "E. F." Benson was an English novelist, biographer, memoirist, archaeologist and short story writer.

E. F. Benson was the younger brother of A.C. Benson, who wrote the words to "Land of Hope and Glory", Robert Hugh Benson, author of several novels and Roman Catholic apologetic works, and Margaret Benson, an author and amateur Egyptologist.

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