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The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M.…
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The Diary of a Provincial Lady (original 1930; edition 1995)

by E.M. Delafield

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6281915,373 (4.15)155
Member:Friendlydragonspouse
Title:The Diary of a Provincial Lady
Authors:E.M. Delafield
Info:Wordsworth Editions Ltd (1995), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
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. 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.
  3. 10
    Queen Lucia by E. F. Benson (pamelad)
  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 155 mentions

English (18)  Spanish (1)  All languages (19)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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 |
Quite amusing. But how different, how very different, from the home life of my own sister-in-law! (Who lives in one half of what was E. M. Delafield's house.) ( )
1 vote annesadleir | Oct 21, 2012 |
Diary of a Provincial Lady is just the absolutely most boring book. The first 80 pages or so, are kind of OK, from the historical point of view, as the reader gets a peek into the interbellum; Naturally, nothing ever happens in the life of a provincial lady, even one with literary aspirations, so the book is a chain series of gossip + husband + reading list. The provincial lady mainly reads a lot of second, and third-rate novels from the Edwardian era to her own time.

I wouldn't know what readers then or now could get out of it, except as a way of passing the time. ( )
  edwinbcn | Sep 7, 2012 |
Abandoned 1/3 of the way in. A lady finds life so confusing while having to deal with servants who make her life possible but insist on having their own opinions. When she writes about writers or writing she was perceptive and amusing. Otherwise, I kind of wanted to drown her. ( )
  Citizenjoyce | Aug 26, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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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).
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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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