Diary of a Provincial Lady – E.M. Delafield (1930)

Another book that I can’t believe I waited until now to read, despite it being on the bookshelves for at least a decade prior to this. Sigh. Still, pleasure denied can sometimes be pleasure increased. This Virago edition of A Diary of a Provincial Lady (and including three other vols as well) was absolutely exquisitely hilarious, caustic and dry. Delafield has developed a winning character with the nameless protagonist with a subversive sense of humor who writes about her everyday life in Devon between the wars.

The book is written in the format of a diary (of course), and includes such gems as this one:

“Robert, this morning, complains of insufficient breakfast.
Cannot feel that porridge, scrambled eggs, toast, marmalade, scones, brown bread and coffee give adequate grounds for this, but admit that porridge is slightly burnt…”

Almost every diary entry has a witty comment or dry observation about her life: the troubles with the all-powerful Cook, the unpredictable Mademoiselle, Robert (hubby who is usually asleep behind the newspaper), and the two children. The Provincial Lady is one character who I would LOVE to meet: she is charmingly ordinary, endearingly normal, and really funny. This is not a book that lets you put it down every now and then; every diary entry pulls you in and it is very easy to think “just one more page”…. Her ongoing financial battles, the politics of the village, the stress of finding
(and keeping) good help, the onerous Lady B…

According to Wiki, Delafield had become friends with one of the editors of a magazine called “Time and Tide”. When the editor wanted something light to fill space, Delafield agreed to think of something to write, and The Provincial Lady was born. It is quite autobiographical, according to various websites, so will have to check this when/if I can track down a biography or autobio of Delafield. The original volume of “The Diary of a
Provincial Lady” was so well received, that she went on to write The Provincial Lady Goes Further, The Provincial Lady in America, and the Provincial Lady in Wartime, each of which covers later portions of her life (and are also hilarious as well). My edition also happened to include each of these, which was a very nice bonus.

Really truly funny read. Highly recommended.

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