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THE TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT
Thursday, October 3, 1912:  "Mrs. Ames"

Mr. E.F. Benson's stories are always easy of entrance, but in this respect MRS. AMES (Hodder and Stoughton, Sr.) A clever laughable little satire in the author's lightest and happiest mood, rivals any of them.  We glide, thoroughly aroused from the outset, into the midst of the social affairs of Riseborough in Kent, where Mrs. Ames, a plain little woman well in her sixth decade, "like a good-looking toad," but quite "county," holds easy social sway save for a caviller here and there.  Chief among these is Mrs. Altham (a little gaunt and red of cheek), with a mind more appreciative of the infinitesimal than of the important, and a husband entirely congenial by virtue of an appetite for news no less rapacious than her own.  As we accompany the Althams one fine summer morning up the High street, he on his way to the club (for "news of Morocco") and she to war, with Mr. Pritchard, the grocer, we find important matters stirring.  For Mrs. Ames has actually invited to dinner a husband without his wife and a wife without her husband!  Really, it almost looks as if...  But there it is, and leads to all sorts of things - to a middle-aged .Shakespeare" dance in a garden at which there appear four rival Cleopatras and two Antonies; to a defection from conjugal loyalty, and some fishing in shallow waters; to a sporadic female-suffragistic turmoil; to a contemplated elopement - in fact, to things "crammed with interest and incident for all those who take a proper concern in the affairs of other people."  It is all admirably touched off, and if laughter could kill, gossip (and philandering) would die in agony in a thousand country places.  But Mr. Benson knows that middle-aged people with nothing to do are likely to become children, that human beings are periodically volcanic, and that a storm in a tea-cup if you happen to be living in the tea-cup is just as upsetting as a gale on the high seas.  There is throughout a most effective interchange of the 
serious thing spoken in jest with the witty thing said rather seriously.

BOOK REVIEW DIGEST, 1912

Benson, Edward Frederic, Mrs. Ames. $1.35 (1 1/2c.) Doubleday.  12-21728

The characters of this tale are a group of more or less middle-aged persons, who move in a narrowly restricted circle of English society.  In 
the unending round of dinners given and returned Mrs. Ames has been the acknowledged social leader, until thru intervention of a younger woman she finds not only that she is losing her power but that her husband's affection and devotion are slipping from her.  It is then that she turns to the suffragette cause finding in it what the author believes the majority of its followers find: namely, an escape from self-repression, and from a "decorous emptiness of days."  It is this same "emptiness" which would have driven Major Ames and Millicent Evans dangerously near the line of disaster had not Mrs. Ames resumed her old power of control and saved the situation before ever a ripple had been raised on the surface of the community's conventional existence.
As in many of this author's novels, there is much clever satire on modern society.
[A.L.A.Bkl, 9:124.  N. 12 ]

The book has all Mr. Benson's cleverness, though it is not entirely satisfactory.  For one thing, the younger generation seem to count for 
singularly little in Mrs. Ames' circle.
[Ath. 1912, 2:244.  S. 7, 100w]

An eminently tranquil book, full of shrewd observance and mild satire.
F.T. Cooper.  [Bookm. 26:310.  N. 12. 420w]

It must be premised that Mr. E.F. Benson's new novel, Mrs. Ames,' stands a very small chance of achieving anything like popularity.  At the same time, it is an extraordinary study in comedy and quite the best thing artistically that Mr. Benson has done so far.
 [N.Y. Times.  17:554.  O. 6, 12.  400w ]

Mr. Benson's newest novel which seems to have been designed by the author to show not only his large assortment of characters at their worst moments, but also modern life in a small town at its most vulgar, turns round upon him and shows him at a level far below that to which we now expect him to attain.
[Sat. R.  114:305.  S. 7, 12.  730w]

[Spec.  109:711.  N. 2, 12.  250w -- no review]

 

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