Muriel Pulls It Off: An Unofficial Guide to Country Manners
Set about twenty years ago, Johnston's latest novel is a comic romp about a mid-fifty year old woman who, having been rather lost in her London life, suddenly, out of the blue, inherits a marvellous Elizabethan manor house in Lincolnshire from a lunatic old man to whom she is vaguely related. Muriel goes to live there but is constantly dogged by her London friends: feckless son and daughter-in-law, old drunk lover, a pretender to the inheritance and Princess Matilda – youngest and invented daughter of George VI and the Queen Mother – who insists on visiting and bringing 'Mummy' and other bits of Greek royalty there with her. The heroine has huge difficulty fitting this in with ghastly old retainers and the local vicar and his wife, Delilah. She is also lumbered with her ex-husband's dog which she dislikes and is in love with her ex-husband's brother who is blind. Her ex-husband turns up to share the spoils when he hears of her inheritance (he is a disgraced MP). There's also Miss Crunchard, ex royal governess. The royal family had a penchant for the dishing out of nicknames and King George VI was unable to produce his 'r's – thus she is always known as 'Cunty'.
‘Susanna is the mistress of what the Surrealists called “Black Humour”, the queen of deliberate outrage and offensive scandal. Here, she is in top mischievous form. Her characters, real or invented, most often both, will limp out of the pages bleeding, maimed and furious’ George Melly
‘No one tells a better story than Susanna Johnston. It is dangerous to take her into hushed libraries or crowded trains as one cannot read her without laughing out loud. She has exquisite timing and a sublime sense of the absurd. But no matter how wickedly she prods the pompous, the vain and the deluded, her compassion for her tragically flawed creations never flags. All this is a longwinded way of saying that Susanna Johnston is the thinking woman’s Evelyn Waugh’ Maureen Freely