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Mrs. Ames: A Novel (The Bloomsbury Group) Paperback – December 21, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


'A clever, laughable little satire in the author's lightest and happiest mood' Times Literary Supplement 'An extraordinary study in comedy and quite the best thing artistically that Mr Benson has done so far' New York Times 'If you only know E F Benson's Mapp and Lucia books, then prepare to be beguiled by this witty and amusing story of village life and the perpetual jockeying for social position.Mrs Ames is sheer delight from start to finish' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

The son of E.W. Benson, an archbishop of Canterbury (1883-96), the young E.F. Benson was educated at Marlborough School and at King's College, Cambridge. After graduation he worked from 1892 to 1895 in Athens for the British School of Archaeology and later in Egypt for the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies. In 1893 he published Dodo, a novel that attracted wide attention. It was followed by a number of other successful novels including his hugely popular Mapp and Lucia series. In 1938 he was made an honorary fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge. He died in February, 1940.


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Product Details

  • Series: The Bloomsbury Group
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (December 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608195120
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608195121
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,851,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Chapati VINE VOICE on February 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
Mrs. Ames, by E.F. Benson, is one of the newer offerings from the Bloomsbury Group. It centers on the small English town of Riseborough, where Mrs. Ames reigns supreme as the queen of social activity. But all is not well in her world. Mrs. Evans, a younger, prettier and more charming hostess has recently moved to town with her doctor husband. She catches the eye not only of Mrs. Ames's poetry-leaning atheist son, but also that of her bumbling and self-satisfied husband. Mrs. Ames realizes that to win back her man, she must undertake extreme measures of beautification. But will those be enough?

I really enjoy books about small-town life at the turn of the century. I love reading about the evolving class structure, the encroachment of new technologies and the slow evolution of domestic arrangements. This book really hits on all that and more. It's full of very sharp satire (razor-sharp, at many points) about people and their fascination with neighbors and scandal. There were many points when I laughed out loud or gasped at the author's wit and ability to understand exactly what was going through people's minds and bring it to light so perfectly.

What I liked about this book more than anything else was its frank and ultimately very empathetic portrayal of a group of women reaching late middle age and finding that their lives are not at all what they thought they'd be. Mrs. Ames and Mrs. Evans are both unhappy in their marriages. It isn't that they don't appreciate their husbands- they do have a general sort of fondness for them. But their lives have become so routine and ordinary that they take everything for granted and people take them for granted, too.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ellis Bell VINE VOICE on October 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
I first heard about this book from another blogger, who mentioned that the Bloomsbury Group would be reprinting four more books this summer, of which Mrs. Ames is one. EF Benson wrote dozens of novels, of which his Mapp and Lucia series is most famous. Mrs. Ames is very similar to Mapp and Lucia; it concerns the social life of the town of Riseborough and several ladies' attempts to be Queen Bee there. Mrs. Ames is the reigning queen of middle-upper class Riseborough, but her position is threatened by the arrival of Mrs. Evans.

The novel starts off a little shakily; at first I found it a little hard to get engaged by Benson's writing style. But as I continued reading, I found myself loving this witty satire, in which people split hairs over whether one lives in a "street" or "a road." Mrs. Evans's social ascendency over the town of Riseborough seems accidental, so it's no less funny when she has the upper hand over Mrs. Ames. One of my favorite characters in this book is Mrs. Altham, the middle-aged neighbor who equally aspires to the position of Queen Bee--but doesn't ever get there and says nasty things about people behind their backs. This might get old after a while if the author's tone hadn't been quite so satirical--often, the joke is on Mrs. Altham, which makes parts of the book such a joy to read. Reading this book makes me look forward to reading more of EF Benson's books--I've heard that the Mapp and Lucia series is especially good and so I think I'll try to track down copies of some of those books.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jenny on February 26, 2011
Format: Paperback
I won this book in a LibraryThing giveaway, and prior to receiving it I admit I was quite unfamiliar with any of the writings of E.F. Benson. However, I have to say, I was quite pleased with this little novel. It did take a little effort and patience to get into, but it did eventually pick up so I encourage all other readers to stick with it. The story is lightly witty and humorous, and full of ironic, tongue-in-cheek statements that can easily be glossed over, but make the book infinitely more pleasurable when you do catch them. Other reviews have It deals with the obvious plot of life in a small town, with various female figures struggling for the place of queen bee, but more than that it deals with a certain illicit romance between two characters, and the universal desire of people to love, and be loved, and the drastic actions otherwise rational, ordinary people might take to bring such a love into their own lives. I was very impressed by the grace Mrs Ames shows to her younger cousin (who has become a rival for Mrs Ames' own husband) despite the terrific wrongdoing that was committed against her and her marriage. I was also continually amused at The gossipy Althams, who often think they know everything that goes on in the town, yet still know nothing (isn't that so often the case in life!).

This delightful book is more than just a snapshot of small-town life, but also a careful glimpse into a variety of facets of human nature, which we can all respond and relate to. The story is well-designed and there are many humorous events that will keep a reader captivated to the end. For this it deserves 5 stars, but I subtracted one simply because I found the writing style to be a bit tedious at times, especially in the beginning. It did take a fair amount of focus and perseverance to finish, but will be a treasure to those who make it through!
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