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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; but the PL is unique unto herself, maintaining her self-effacing wit even as she goes on book tour to America and deals with the early years of WWII. I loved watching her deal with the demands of country life, and I enjoyed watching her children grow up. Because she was a lady of leisure, the PL had a lot of time for reading; and she mentions a lot of books (including a few favorite Persephone authors, as in:

Ella Wheelwright joins us. She now has on a black ensemble, and hair done in quite a new way--and we talk about books. I say that I have enjoyed nothing so much as Flush, but Miss Paterson again disconcerts me by muttering that to write a whole book about a dog is Simply Morbid.


...What, I enquire in order to gain time, does Mrs. Peacock like in the way of books?

In times such as these, she replies very apologetically indeed, she thinks a novel is practically the only thing. Not a detective novel, not a novel about politics, nor about the unemployed, nothing to do with sex, and above all not a novel about life under Nazi regime in Germany.

Inspiration immediately descends upon me and I tell her without hesitation to read a delightful novel called The Priory by Dorothy Whipple, which answers all requirements, and has a happy ending into the bargain.

What I also enjoyed about the Diary of a Provincial Lady books is that they’re so relevant to what was going on in the 1930s; mention is made of current events, and books and movies that had come out about that time. Highly recommended!


Karen K. said…
I loved the Provincial Lady and have the third in the series waiting patiently on the TBR shelves -- and I agree, The Priory is all those things and more! It's so fun to read about books I love mentioned in other books.
Aarti said…
This book, all the books you compared it to, and all the books SHE mentions reading are all on my wish list! Gah, so much good stuff to read!

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