Skip to main content

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.


Or:

...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!

Comments

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!

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is an old dotard, her third locks her up in the house for days and won't let her out; and the last is a fop who a…

Review: This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart

Pages: 254Original date of publication: 1964My edition: 1964 (William Morrow)Why I decided to read: it was 90 degrees outside at the time and I decided it was time to read another book by a favorite authorHow I acquired my copy: from Susanna Kearsley, December 2009Sometimes, whether or not I decide to read a book depends on the weather. Mary Stewart’s books are best read on either very hot or very cold days; and since it was 90 degrees out one weekend a couple of weeks ago, I decided that this one would be perfect. And it was.This Rough Magic takes its title from The Tempest, a play from which this novel takes off. Lucy Waring is a struggling actress who comes to visit her sister on Corfu. One of her neighbors is a renowned actor who’s taken a bit of a sabbatical and his son, a musician with whom Lucy comes to blows at first. This Rough Magic is vintage Mary Stewart, with a murder or two, a mystery, romance, suspense, and lots of magic thrown in. Lucy is your typical Mary Stewart hero…

Review: Joy in the Morning, by Betty Smith

Pages: 294
Original date of publication: 1963
My edition: 2010 (Harper Perennial)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble, Phoenix, January 2011


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my all-time favorite books and I’ve read it, oh, half a dozen times, so I was interested to see how Joy in the Morning would compare.

Set in the late 1920s, Joy in the Morning begins when Annie, aged 18, comes to a small Midwestern college town where her fiancĂ©e, Carl, is in law school. The novel opens with their marriage in the county courthouse, and follows the couple through their first year or so of marriage. It’s a struggle, because Carl and Annie are basically children themselves, for all the ways in which Carl tries to appear more adult-like.

Annie is endearing; she’s ignorant but a voracious reader, reading everything from Babbitt to War and Peace. Betty Smith’s novels are pretty autobiographical; Joy in the Morning is (unofficially) a kind of sequel to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—cert…