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Review: The Way Things Are, by EM Delafield


Pages: 336
Original date of publication: 1927
My edition: 1988 (Virago Modern Classics)
Why I decided to read: read for All Virago/All August
How I acquired my copy: Ebay, January 2012

The heroine of The Way Things Are is kind of a prototype for the Provincial Lady. Laura Temple has been married to her husband Alfred for 7 years. The have two small sons together and Laura spends her time looking after her family and engaging in the local affairs of the village of Quinnerton. At heart, though, Laura feels trapped—her husband is a good man but she feels that she’s missing something—until she meets Duke (Marmaduke) Ayland, a friend of her younger sister Christine.

On the surface, the book is lighthearted, even funny in some places; but you really experience the boredom and monotony that Laura feels. At the heart of this book is the theme of entrapment—EMD believed that all married women were trapped. EMD approaches the book with detachment; she tried to view the characters impartially, so none of them experience an inner monologue, for example (except possibly Laura). Her husband is an archetype (in a review, the Times Literary Supplement called him “stolid as a leg of mutton”); her sister is an archetype; her children are archetypes; even Laura herself is an archetype of the typical country housewife, concerned with the petty details of her everyday existence (complete with Servant Problems). But there’s humor in the monotony of Laura’s everyday life.

It’s interesting to witness the contrast and similarities between our heroine and her unmarried, city-dwelling sister Christine. But I noticed a theme between them; both only seem half-content with with the lifestyle they have (Laura spends her time having an extramarital affair; Christine accidentally ends up finding a husband). Given the title and knowing what we know about Laura, the ending is predictable, but it’s interesting to watch her make her decision. In all though, I prefer the Provincial Lady for wit and humor.



Comments

Anonymous said…
I've only ever read the PL novels but I have a copy of Humbug around here which I really should get round to reading. I'm still not sure what to make of EMD as an author...

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