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Contemporary Reviews - Paying Guests E.F.Benson (Sketch by Patrick Hamill)
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Book Review Digest - 1929
BENSON, EDWARD FREDERIC.   Paying guests.  320p $2.50 Doubleday, Doran [7s 
6d Hutchinson] 29-14379

The author of Dodo is here seen in an unfamiliar role, as the quiet observer of a group of middle-class people living in a private hotel 
at an English Spa.
New Statesman

To say that Mr. Benson in it does for English life and human nature what Booth Tarkington does for like phases of the American brand of 
masculine and feminine eccentricities would be to do it only partial justice.  As expositors of its humorous aspects both these story-tellers 
are unsurpassed.  And in "Paying Guests" Mr. Benson seems to have surpassed himself.
E.F. Edgett ~ Boston Transcript p2 Jl 6 '29 1300w

Mr. Benson's humor is always good natured, even when he is making sport of the peculiarities of the devotees of mental healing, and it must 
be a sensitive spirit indeed that would resent a satire that is so light and sparkling.  Anyone who enjoys Booth Tarkington's portraits of American character will be certain to take no less pleasure in Mr. Benson's portraits of English character.  Each has its own elements of distinctive national traits, but each in its way is humanly universal.
E.F. Edgett ~ Boston Transcript p5 Jl 20 '29 270w

There is little of Mr. Benson, the castigator of the smart, to be discovered in these pages, which are devoted to a kindly humour and gentle 
ridicule of the more harmless snobberies indulged in by men and women leading trivial and hampered lives.  It is quite an agreeable book and one that is easily read.
New statesman 33:26 Ap 13 '29 100w

We turn from "Dodo", Benson's pale performance, with a weariness that amounts almost to pain. . .  Mr. Benson retrieves the small doings of these uninteresting people with the amiably excited air of a puppy rushing back with the stick that his master has thrown.  There is only 
friendliness in his manner.  Though his people are stupid, with small incomes, and imaginations centered about their own limited egos, he does not blame them for that.  The acid of satire has turned weak in him, and he is too indolent for any wild extravagances.  "Paying Guests" is lazy, low tide.
Florence Haxton ~ NY Evening Post p7m Ag 10 '29 400w

"Paying Guests" is comedy of the sort one sees too seldom.  It is the product of a fertile but unrestrained invention and a sense of quiet 
drollery.  It is inherent in the characters themselves, rather than in artificial situations.
NY Times p6 Jl7 .29 530w

Mr. Benson's wit is spiced with cruelty; but his invention is so fertile and resourceful that one is always more aware of the wit than of 
the sting.
L.P. Hartley ~ Sat R 147:484 Ap 6 '29 130w

There is no plot in the novel, no implied comment upon life. But there is great good fun, and, what is more, intelligent fun.  High brows need not sniff at 'Paying Guests'; low brows will not find much of the comedy over their heads. . .  Mr. Benson has produced a widely 
acceptable light novel of boarding-house foibles in a British health resort.
Sat R of Lit 6:262 O 12 '29 300w

"Mr. Benson is at his very best in Paying Guests and we are grateful for his malice. 
B.E. Todd ~ Spec 142:433 Mr 16 '29 130w

This author has found better material before than he finds here in the inhabitants of "Wentworth." . . .  The stage at times becomes a 
rather empty exploitation of obvious humors.
 Times [London] Lit Sup p204 Mr 14 '29 350w

Other reviews [Booklist 26:69 N '29 ~ Bookm 70:xxx O '29 110w ]

The [London] Times Literary Supplement
Thursday, March 14, 1929 [204]

PAYING GUESTS.  It may, no doubt, be true that chronic inhabitants of boarding establishments develop certain idiosyncrasies which render them suitable subjects for the satirical writer; but novelists who rely wholly upon these idiosyncrasies for their effects are apt to find their story wearing rather thin before their book is finished, besides arousing the suspicion of being a little uncharitable.  Mr. E.F. Benson's PAYING GUESTS (Hutchinson, 7s. 6d. net) illustrates this danger.  This author has found better material before than he finds here in the inhabitants of "Wentworth," the superior boarding-house at Bolton Spa kept by Mrs. Oxney, and a more thrilling plot than the baiting of Colonel Chase.  No doubt Colonel Chase deserved all he got.  Nobody knows better than Mr. Benson how to display the foibles of the selfish and domineering, and he gives us an excellent portrait of this healthy, self-absorbed, and overbearing man, who was accustomed to lord it over the ladies at Wentworth.  Nobody stood up to him, not even the ever-girlish spinster Miss Howard, until the advent of Mrs. Holders, who was unrepentantly rheumatic and had a wicked sense of humour.  Mrs. Holders let loose one evening a demon spirit of doubt concerning the Colonel's divinity.  From his resounding defeat at bridge he becomes the sport of imps.  Mrs. Bliss, the brave devotee of mind over matter, Miss Howard and a combination of circumstances help to bewitch him.  Not only is he bewitched, but Miss Howard herself, with her feeble water-colours, her improvisations after Chopin, and her irritating "sweet young thing" conversation, and Florence Kemp, the down-trodden 
daughter of Mr. Kemp, become affected also.  We can hardly believe that Florence would have revolted so quickly and so effectually, but the neatness of the bosom friendship that she strikes up with Miss Howard are comically lifelike.  The most prepossessing character is the unobtrusive Mrs. Holders, who started the amusing success of Miss Howard's exhibition: we wished that she appeared oftener on the stage to relieve what at times becomes a rather empty exploitation of obvious humours.

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