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Diary of a Provincial Lady (1930)

by E. M. Delafield

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Provincial Lady (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9993316,692 (4.08)248
E. M. Delafield's largely autobiographical novel takes the form of a journal written by an upper-middle-class lady living in a Devonshire village. Written with humour, this charming novel is full of the peculiarities of daily life. The Provincial Lady of the title attempts to avoid disaster and prevent chaos from descending upon her household. But with a husband reluctant to do anything but doze behind The Times, mischievous children and trying servants, it's a challenge keeping up appearances on an inadequate income, particularly in front of the infuriating and haughty Lady Boxe. As witty and delightful today as when it was first published in 1930, Diary of a Provincial Lady is a brilliantly observed comic novel and an acknowledged classic. This beautiful Macmillan Collector's Library edition features an introduction by author and journalist Christina Hardyment.Designed to appeal to the book lover, the Macmillan Collector's Library is a series of beautiful gift-editions of much loved classic titles. Macmillan Collector's Library are books to love and treasure.… (more)
  1. 30
    Queen Lucia by E. F. Benson (pamelad)
  2. 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.
  3. 20
    The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith (cdoeri)
  4. 10
    Spam Tomorrow by Verily Anderson (nessreader)
    nessreader: Domestic, uppermiddle class, very English, 1930s delafield, 1940s anderson. Thirkell's barsetshire novels, though more insubstantial, mine tge same vein of humour.
  5. 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.
  6. 00
    Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson (quartzite)
  7. 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 248 mentions

English (32)  Spanish (1)  All languages (33)
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
A diarist writes of everyday life in interwar rural England, where she and her husband live above their means with their two children, a governess, a cook, a maid, and a gardener. I am not sure if Robert, the husband, works or if they’re a member of a social class that doesn’t work. The author’s humor is sometimes self-deprecating, and other times directed at others. The work feels like it’s written for insiders in the author’s social group, and I felt like an outsider. There seemed to be a distance between the author and myself that I couldn’t cross. While I did enjoy some of the episodes recounted in this book, I can’t see myself going out of my way to track down any of this author’s other works. ( )
  cbl_tn | Mar 20, 2022 |
Gentle inter-war humour from the English shires (Devon) with beautiful observation of the social hierarchy, and the difficulties of managing life with only a cook, house maid, gardener and au pair for her younger child.
Written for magazine publication as a series of diary entries, this book is enjoyable, but not as timeless as Wodehouse nor as surreal as Cold Comfort Farm, which were written around the same time and in a similar English upper-middle class milieu. It is, however, a very easy to read and more-ish book, making you want just one more day’s diary entry.
Having read a 2005 New Yorker article, The Diarist, about Delafield, on further reflection I can see her characters’ similarities to those of Rose Macaulay, and her creation of the fictional humorous diary genre.

James Mustich in his book 1,000 Books to Read before you Die refers to a 2005 New Yorker article, The Diarist, about Delafield, and as I have access to the archive I looked this up and it is well worth a read if you can. In particular, I had not appreciated that Delafield is credited as creating the genre of the fictional humorous diary (which I associate with Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole, and which has more recently been used by Helen Fielding).
The Diary was originally published weekly in Time and Tide (a left leaning feminist magazine, which I had previously come across as it published Orwell) and later in Punch. There were three sequels and a travel book, Straw Without Bricks: I Visit Soviet Russia, was renamed The Provincial Lady in Russia for US publication. ( )
  CarltonC | Dec 20, 2021 |
Published in 1930, Diary of a Provincial Lady is a humorous, laugh-out-loud account of a wife and mother in the English countryside. Although this is fiction, it was based on E. M. Delafield's experiences. I first came to this book a couple of years ago and got up to the part in which the lady's husband disposes of some kittens. I couldn't go on with the rest and the husband annoyed me. This time however I was in the mood to enjoy it's merits. She writes in such a way describing everyday situations which is great fun and very amusing.
https://readableword.wordpress.com/2021/05/29/the-diary-of-a-provincial-lady-by-... ( )
  Nicky24 | Oct 27, 2021 |
A gift to ride along for a year with the Provincial Lady. A window into a time gone: household chaos, servant management and turnover, shopping. Masterful use of understatement. One detail I found striking: the way she and other mothers of her class chose to not display parental pride and doting, things that we freely indulge in nowadays. ( )
  Je9 | Aug 10, 2021 |
Very funny and lighthearted. ( )
  Chica3000 | Dec 11, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Delafield, E. M.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Antón, PatriciaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beauman, NicolaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bentley, NicolasIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Borden, MaryForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cooper, JillyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutton, GeorginaNarratorsecondary 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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Wikipedia in English (1)

E. M. Delafield's largely autobiographical novel takes the form of a journal written by an upper-middle-class lady living in a Devonshire village. Written with humour, this charming novel is full of the peculiarities of daily life. The Provincial Lady of the title attempts to avoid disaster and prevent chaos from descending upon her household. But with a husband reluctant to do anything but doze behind The Times, mischievous children and trying servants, it's a challenge keeping up appearances on an inadequate income, particularly in front of the infuriating and haughty Lady Boxe. As witty and delightful today as when it was first published in 1930, Diary of a Provincial Lady is a brilliantly observed comic novel and an acknowledged classic. This beautiful Macmillan Collector's Library edition features an introduction by author and journalist Christina Hardyment.Designed to appeal to the book lover, the Macmillan Collector's Library is a series of beautiful gift-editions of much loved classic titles. Macmillan Collector's Library are books to love and treasure.

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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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