Monday, 24 February 2014

Lettice and Victoria by Susana Johnston

This mischievous roman à clef revolves around the interactions of five main characters. Victoria, barely twenty, finds herself acting as amanuensis to Laurence, an elderly man of letters, now blind, who lives in a ravishing house by the sea in northern Italy. Soon after her arrival, she indulges in a heady night of passion with Edgar, a youthful Englishman. Their subsequent union introduces Edgar's pretentious mother Lettice, who is jealous and suspicious of her daughter-in-law's prettiness and her ability to amuse Lettice's intellectual friends. While Victoria struggles to adapt to her new surroundings, Lettice, in a bid to maintain her own social superiority, attempts to thwart her every move in hilarious fashion. Enter Archie, one of the inner circle, whose relationship with Victoria provokes a scandal that threatens to destroy her. Darkly funny and deeply insightful, Lettice & Victoria is not just a love story with a fanciful and flawed female protagonist, but a wonderful portrait of English society.

I love the cover of Lettice and Victoria. When I received some books from Arcadia, this one was the book that stood out the most for me. 

The story's main focus is on Victoria who at twenty finds herself in Italy, working for an elderly gentleman who is known as the man of letters, who now blind has Victoria writing his letters for him. She soon finds herself marrying Edgar soon after her arrival and after a night of passion and encounters his jealous Mother Lettice. Whilst Victoria struggles to adapt to this new world of class and superiority, Lettice tries as hard as she can to make sure Victoria does not fit in. But then Archie meets Victoria and Lettice finds her best efforts thwarted and a scandal ensues which threatens to destroy her reputation.

I was a little confused when I first started reading as the writing style was unlike what I am used but, but I soon got into it and what ensued was quite an amusing story. I was reminded of Wodehouse's stories, which I have not read, but have seen the series Blandings on TV, so I thought it was quite funny in places. Not funny as in laugh out loud, but as I have heard it described by others, it was darkly funny in places.

I did manage to read this quite quickly, but because of the unusual writing style and the minimal character development, I could never really get into it. I did like Lettice though despite her mean intentions towards Victoria as some of the things she comes out with were quite ridiculous.

Quite a nice read, but sadly didn't manage to keep my interest throughout.


Lettice and Victoria is available from Amazon UK

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