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Review: The Diary of a Provincial Lady, by EM Delafield

Pages: 529
Original date of publication: (1930-40)
My edition: 2003 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: through the VMC group on LT
How I acquired my copy: Awesomebooks, March 2011


My copy of Diary of a Provincial Lady consists of The Diary of a Provincial Lady and its three sequels: The Provincial Lady Goes Further, The Provincial Lady in America, and The Provincial Lady in Wartime. The Provincial Lady (hereafter the PL, since she’s unnamed in the book) is a housewife, mother, and writer, happily ensconced in her country home in Devon. We meet her patient, complacent husband Robert and her two children, Robin and Vicky, as they get older (Vicky is six in the first book, so she must be about sixteen in the last). The PL satirizes the society in which she lives, while patiently dealing with her family and career as a novelist.

The series is a combination of Bridget Jones’s Diary (surely Helen Fielding had the PL also in mind while writing her book?), Mrs. Tim of the Regiment, and Henrietta’s War

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

--Grab your current read
--Open to a random page
--share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
Be sure NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
--Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

“One day after work I found the Douse family all sitting round on the floor. In the centre of the group was Lizzie.”

--From The Virago Book of Women Travellers (excerpt from Emily Carr’s Klee Wyck)

Review: The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton

Pages: 366
Original date of publication: 1920
My edition: 1992 (Collier)
Why I decided to read: the 1001 Books to Read Before you Die list
How I acquired my copy: the Philadelphia Book Trader, March 2011


“In reality they all lived in a kind of hieroglyphic world, where the real thing was never said or done of even thought, but only represented by a set of arbitrary signs…” (Ch. 6).

Newland Archer is a member of upper-crust, Gilded Age New York Society, about to marry May Welland, a naive heiress. He becomes attracted to May’s cousin, the Countess Ellen Olenska, back in New York after disgracing herself. Part of her attraction for Newland is the fact that she is so free-spirited, and so a struggle ensues: will Newland choose the conventional path with May, or will he flaunt society’s expectations of him and choose the Countess?

Edith Wharton’s observations of Gilded Age New York are extremely incisive; although she was a part of the society she wrote about, she was nevertheless able to see th…

Review: The Mirage, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Pages: 500Original date of publication: 1999My edition: 2009 (Sphere)Why I decided to read: I’m reading through the Morland Dynasty seriesHow I acquired my copy: Amazon UK, July 2010#22: Covers 1870-1874The Mirage continues the story of the Morland family, but it focuses on the next generation. Benedict Morland dies of a fever in Egypt, and his son, George, remains at Morland Place to carry on the family name. He marries Alfreda Turlingham, an older woman with skeletons in her closet and a profligate brother. George’s sister, Henrietta is rushed into a marriage with a much older man; and Charlotte’s daughter Venetia begins her quest to become a doctor, despite the fact that all of society is opposed to it. This is another very strong installment to the series, although the history of the era takes a backseat to what’s going on within the family circle. There’s the usual quota of shady characters in this book (what Morland Dynasty book would be complete without one?), but I found Venet…

Review: The Curate's Wife, by EH Young

Pages: 336Original date of publication: 1934My edition: 1985 (Virago)Why I decided to read: it’s on the list of Virago Modern ClassicsHow I acquired my copy: the Philadelphia Book Trader, December 2010EH Young is one of the authors I never would have heard about if it hadn’t been for Virago. Her novels are for the most part set in a town she calls Upper Radstowe, based upon Bristol. The heroine of this story is Dahlia, a young, nonconformist woman married to the curate of Upper Radsowe, Cecil Sproat. The pair have only known each other for eight months and been married for only three weeks, and so they are still getting to know one another. Dahlia comes from a rather checkered past; her mother Louisa is re-married to a man with whom she probably had an adulterous affair; and her sister Jenny (the main character of Jenny Wren, to which this book is a sequel) has run off with Louisa’s lodger. Then there are the Vicar, Mr. Doubleday, and his wife, whose marriage serves as a contrast to t…

Review: The Falcons of Montabard, by Elizabeth Chadwick

Pages: 473Original date of publication: 2003My edition: 2008 (Sphere)Why I decided to read: I needed a good comfort readHow I acquired my copy: Amazon UK, May 2009After reading the harrowing Wish Her Safe at Home, I needed a book that was going to be comfort reading, and so I turned to a sure thing: Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Falcons of Montabard, a book that’s been sitting on my bookshelves for ages but was waiting for the right time to be read. The story opens on November 25, 1120, the eve of the sinking of the White Ship. Sabin Fitzsimon is a young knight who, having seduced one of the mistresses of the king and murdered a man, is put into the service of Edmund Strongfist. Strongfist takes his entourage to the Holy Land, taking with him his daughter, Annais. Sabin is strongly sttracted to Annais, but he has promised his employer, and himself, that he’ll stay away from her. True to form, however, they keep being thrown together, and the result is almost predictable. But getting to tha…

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:--Grab your current read--Open to a random page--share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that pageBe sure NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)--Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!“Everyone knew where the officers’ mess hall was. It was the only place at Banhida from which the smell of real food issued.”--From The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer

Review: In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson

Pages: 434Original date of publication: 2011My edition: 2011 (Crown)Why I decided to read: It was offered on Amazon VineHow I acquired my copy: Amazon Vine, March 2011I’ve read Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City twice, and also Thunderstruck; so when this book was offered on Amazon Vine, I jumped at the chance to read it. Devil in the White City and Thunderstruck are books that deal with crime; In the Garden of Beasts is a little bit different. In this one, Larson traces the story of the Nazis’ rise to power, from the point of view of an American diplomat and his daughter. William Dodd spent four years in Berlin, but this book focuses on the first year. In reality, the whole family went over to Berlin; but it’s the stories of William and Martha Dodd that are much more interesting. Dodd was an odd choice for the role of Ambassador; a former college professor, he was more interested in American history and getting his book written than in foreign policy. He wasn’t even Roosevelt’s fi…

The Sunday Salon

A good chunk of this weekend was spent visiting a good friend, who lives in Virginia. It was mostly good: we went to see a concert of a favorite band of ours, and then on Saturday we went to the Richmond Museum of Art to see the traveling Picasso exhibition, which was fantastic. The only thing that really married the weekend was the fact that my friend had to deal with a family emergency, necessitating him leaving at 2:30 am. But otherwise, I had a lot of fun. I’m a little too exhausted, and lazy, to really do a Sunday Salon post, so I’m taking this meme from Simon:1.The book I’m currently reading:The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer. Set in 1930s Paris, this is the story of a young Jewish Hungarian man who comes to Paris to study architecture—and falls in love with an older woman. About halfway through right now, and it gets to WWII, the book promises to get much darker.2.The last book I finished:The Diary of a Provincial Lady, by EM Delafield. This is the Virago Omnibus edition, …

Review: Wish Her Safe at Home, by Stephen Benatar

Pages: 263Original date of publication: 1982My edition: 2010Why I decided to read: it’s on the list of NYRB ClassicsHow I acquired my copy: Borders, March 2011In the midst of Royal Wedding Madness, I incidentally picked up a copy of Wish Her Safe at Home, set during another time of Royal Wedding Madness (thirty years ago). Rachel Waring inherits a house in Bristol and moves there from London, abandoning her old job and roommate for a life of idle dissipation. She becomes obsessed with her 20-something gardener, as well as the first owner of the house she lived in—who lived and died two hundred years ago. At first, the story is quirky and charming, a kind of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Going in to the novel, I liked Rachel right away; she’s youthful, exuberant and carefree, and doesn’t seem to care what the people around her think of her. Rachel seems socially awkward, saying and doing things that are “off” (in fact, for a while while reading I thought that she has Asperger’s or so…

Review: A Glass of Blessings, by Barbara Pym

Pages: 256Original date of publication: 1958My edition: 1980 (Perennial)Why I decided to read: I’m on a mission to read all of Barbara Pym’s booksHow I acquired my copy: from the Philadelphia Book trader, August 2010A few years ago, when I first started reading Barbara Pym’s novels (with Excellent Women, which I think is a lot of people’s first Pym), I’d heard that her novels were a lot like Jane Austen’s. With a comparison like that, how could I pass that up? Barbara Pym’s novels are actually a lot funnier… but the humor is hidden. This is the story of Wilmet Forsyth, a thirty-something housewife leading a leisured life with her civil servant husband. She spends her life involved with church work and attending classes, but her life isn’t all that fulfilling or fulfilled. Wilmet herself isn’t a person to like much; she’s incredibly superficial and narcissistic, concerned more with fashion (how often in the novel does she turn aside and tell the reader exactly what she’s wearing?) than…

Review: Up the Country: Letters from India, by Emily Eden

Pages: 410Original date of publication: 1860My edition: 1997 (Virago)Why I decided to read: LibraryThing recommendationHow I acquired my copy: Amazon UK, March 2011Emily Eden’s name has been floating around in my literary consciousness for a while—many years ago I read a novel called One Last Look, which apparently is based on Emily Eden’s travels in India; and then a couple of years ago I read Women of the Raj, a historical overview of British women in India in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. So when I found out that her letters home to her sister were available, this became a must-read for me.The book is a collection of letters that Emily wrote between 1837 and 1841, when Emily’s brother George, who was Governor-General, set out to tour the Upper Provinces of India; Emily and her other sister, Fanny, came with him. Historically, Emily’s travels were important because she was able to witness the beginnings of the First Afghan War, although she wasn’t aware of its importance…

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:--Grab your current read--Open to a random page--share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that pageBe sure NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)--Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!“After lunch—cutlets excellent, and quite unlike very uninspiring dish bearing same name which appears at frequent intervals at home—go by Green Line bus to Mickleham, near Leatherhead. Perfect school is discovered, Principal instantly enquires Vicky’s name and refers to her by it afterwards, house, garden and children alike charming, no bandages to be seen anywhere, and Handicrafts evidently occupy only rational amount of attention.”--From Diary of a Provincial Lady, by EM Delafield

The Sunday Salon

It’s been a very busy couple of weeks here, what with a trip into New York City two weeks ago for my sister’s birthday, and then a week ago I went out to spend Easter with my parents. I’ve also been enjoying the warm weather we’ve been having here, and surprisingly, the Royal Wedding. I haven’t been following the hype leading up to the big day, but on Friday morning before work I sat glued to the TV in the break room, watching the procession to Buckingham Palace. It’s kind of odd that a spinster like me should be so fascinated with wedding dresses, but I really liked Kate’s. It was so simple and elegant, you know? April was a busy reading month; I finished eleven books this month, which is more than I read in January, February, or April. In between actually reading and taking trips outside my own little sphere here in Philadelphia, I’ve had difficulty finding the time to actually review the books I’ve read. Yesterday I finally sat down and forced myself to write some of them. How do y…