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The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M.…

The Diary of a Provincial Lady (original 1930; edition 1995)

by E.M. Delafield

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7172213,134 (4.13)199
Title:The Diary of a Provincial Lady
Authors:E.M. Delafield
Info:Wordsworth Editions Ltd (1995), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:1991, Devon

Work details

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

  1. 30
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (lydiabarr)
    lydiabarr: Austen and Delafield are often compared...both have shrewdly observational sense of humor and an elaborately deadpan style. I love them both.
  2. 20
    Queen Lucia by E. F. Benson (pamelad)
  3. 10
    The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald (Bjace)
    Bjace: Seems odd, but both Delafield and MacDonald were city gals transplanted to country situations and their reactions and sense of humor were similar.
  4. 00
    The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith (cdoeri)
  5. 00
    Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson (quartzite)
  6. 00
    And God Created the Au Pair by Benedicte Newland (mumoftheanimals)
    mumoftheanimals: Similar class and wit but set in England between WW1 and WWII.

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» See also 199 mentions

English (21)  Spanish (1)  All languages (22)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
My enjoyment of this book was hurt by a couple of things.
1. I was reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at the same time I was reading this. Concern about Francie's starvation and her family's hard work to keep a roof (albeit a squalid roof) over their heads, made my concern for the Provincial Lady's (whose name escapes me right now) constantly overdrawn bank account quite a bit less. I'm sorry you had such a hard search for a housemaid, Provincial Lady, when other people are picking through trash to take to the junkman for a penny a load. I know that is probably unfair, and I might have enjoyed it more had it not constantly been juxtaposed in my mind with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn . Except for this:
2. I love and adore, with all of my heart, the Mrs. Tim books by D.E. Stevenson. Those are also written in diary form and in the same time period. However, I was so much less invested in the characters in the Provincial Lady. They all seemed shallow and unsympathetic. Whereas just about every character we meet in the Mrs. Tim books are a joy, and I feel like they are my family.

So, while this book was frothy and amusing, I won't remember anyone in it by tomorrow and it made absolutely no lasting impact on me. ( )
  Bduke | Apr 1, 2016 |
Very funny faux-diary of a genteel housewife in 1930’s rural England . Self-deprecating, witty, and very concerned with superficialities, it’s a fun read. It’s not dated so much as it is a historical document. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
I loved this -- in part because I like almost all the English satires of the period between the 2 World Wars. But this thinly disguised memoir wouldn't be the classic it is if it didn't contain commentary & queries about situations women face in other times & places. While problems with servants, lack of money (relatively speaking!), and the Women's Institute are not universal, who hasn't had the experience of someone saying something unpleasant, then "Think of several rather tart and witty rejoinders to this, but unfortunately not until Lady B.'s Bentley has taken her away."

One question which occurred frequently was about why societal conventions & common politeness require adults to lie so often: "Lady Boxe calls. I say, untruthfully, how nice to see her..."; in reply to an old school friend asking to stay for a few nights: "Reply that we shall be delighted to see her, and what a lot we shall have to talk about, after all these years! (This, I find on reflection, is not true, but cannot re-write letter on that account)."; The Vicar's wife has had a picture postcard from her (which she produces from bag), with small cross marking bedroom window of hotel. She says, It's rather interesting, isn't it? to which I reply Yes, it is, which is not in the least true."

This juxtaposition of the conventional polite behavior and the true thoughts of the author is the source of much of the humor. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jan 13, 2016 |
Having treated myself to the new Persephone edition of Diary of a Provincial Lady I decided to re-read it right away. One of the things that sold me on the new edition (already owning an old Virago copy of the complete Provincial lady) was the lovely endpaper – which will remain one of my favourites.

Our eponymous Provincial Lady – is an upper middle class wife and mother – who records in her journal the daily vicissitudes of life. Married to the often taciturn Robert, mother to Robin and Vicky, the provincial lady has large house and is served by a cook, house-parlour maid, and French governess. She is a nice lady; she tries to keep everyone happy although frequently assailed by hilariously irreverent thoughts – which she shares with her journal. Socially speaking she is frequently embarrassed, not having read the right books, seen the right plays or got around to seeing the exhibition that everyone else seems to have. Hopeless at tennis, tennis parties are awkward, and the PL finds her children not always quite as well behaved as the other children. The provincial lady – whose name we never learn, lives in Devon, battles with her indoor bulbs and is driven to quiet distraction by the dreadful Lady Boxe – who not only knows exactly what to do with bulbs but holidays in the South of France at the height of the season.

“Find myself indulging in rather melodramatic fantasy of Bentley crashing into enormous motor-bus and being splintered to atoms. Permit chauffeur to escape unharmed, but fate of Lady B. left uncertain, owing to ineradicable impression of earliest childhood to the effect that It is Wicked to wish for the Death of Another. Do not consider, however, that severe injuries, with possible disfigurement, come under this law – but entire topic unprofitable, and had better be dismissed.”

provincial ladyIn the company of the delightful provincial lady, whose wit is really quite infectious, we meet a number of memorable local characters from the village including ‘our vicar’s wife’, Barbara Blenkinsop and her mother, about whom the whole village is talking when Barbara becomes engaged. With aspirations of authorship, our dear P L casts her wry observant eye over her friends and neighbours – including her old school friend Cissy Crabbe – who lives in a bedsit with a gas ring in Norwich, her best friend dear Rose, and a school friend of Robin’s, who the P L is forced to admit is more attractive than her own children. Despite her social position, her servants and her furs, the PL is often in rather strained financial circumstances, which forces her to visit the pawnbroker with her great aunt’s diamond ring. Constantly worrying over the state of her wardrobe and her general appearance she is driven to try modest improvements with mixed results.

“Later. – Worst fears realised, as to hair. Dear Mary, always so observant, gazes at it in nerve-shattering silence but says nothing, till I am driven to make half-hearted explanation. Her only comment is that she cannot imagine why anybody should deliberately make themselves look ten years older than they need. Feel that, if she wishes to discourage further experiments on my part, this observation could scarcely be improved upon.”

Included in this new Persephone edition are some lovely original 1930’s illustrations by Arthur Watts, which I think are a brilliant addition to what is already a beautiful product. I suspect that this Persephone book (number 105) is likely to be one of those books that is often bought as a gift, a lovely thing to receive for anyone I would think. ( )
  Heaven-Ali | Feb 15, 2014 |
This book was delightful. I look forward to more by this author. In diary format, witty woman in small village in England tells what life it like. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
E. M. Delafieldprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beauman, NicolaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cooper, JillyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Watts, ArthurIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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November 7th.--Plant the indoor bulbs.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Note: This book, Diary of a Provincial Lady (Prion, 1853753688) (Virago, 1844085228) (Remploy, 0706610342) (Chicago, 0897330536) is NOT the same as the omnibus editions, The Diary of a Provincial Lady (Virago, 0860685225) and The Provincial Lady (Macmillan, pre-ISBN) which contain 4 stories: "Diary of a Provincial Lady"; "The Provincial Lady Goes Further", "The Provincial Lady in War Time"; and, "The Provincial Lady in America".
Please do not combine this work with The Diary of a Provincial Lady (Virago, 0860685225) or The Provincial Lady (Macmillan, pre-ISBN).

17.05.14 All the Virago editions are omnibus editions as are some of the other recent editions. They have already been mixed up.
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Book description
Behind this rather prim title lies the hilarious fictional diary of a disaster-prone lady of the 1930s, and her attempts to keep her somewhat ramshackle household from falling into chaos: there's her husband Robert, who, when he's not snoozing behind The Times, does everything with grumbling reluctance; her gleefully troublesome children; and a succession of tricky servants who invariably seem to gain the upper hand. And if her domestic trials are not enough, she must keep up appearances. Particularly with the maddeningly patronising Lady Boxe, whom our Provincial Lady eternally (and unsuccessfully) tries to compete with.
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This is a gently self-effacing, dry-witted tale of a long-suffering and disaster-prone Devon lady of the 1930s. A story of provincial social pretensions and the daily inanities of domestic life to rival George Grossmith's "Diary of a Nobody".

(summary from another edition)

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