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Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield
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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
8612815,531 (4.12)219
  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. 10
    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 219 mentions

English (27)  Spanish (1)  All languages (28)
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
First written and printed as a serial in the weekly journal 'Time and Tide' in 1930, The Diary of a Provincial Lady was published in book form in 1934. Set in a country village, the author chronicles daily life as she tries to run her upper-class English household on a minimal budget (the odd thing goes to the pawnbroker), manage Women's Institute meetings and take care of her taciturn husband and two unruly children. All the while trying to be polite and keep up appearances and socially acceptable behaviour while dealing with domestic mishaps, rebellious staff, odd characters and social disasters. This edition includes a fabulous introduction by Jilly Cooper. Funny. ( )
  DebbieMcCauley | Dec 28, 2017 |
Free to read on Project Gutenberg: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks08/0800661h.html

Delightful! If Bridget Jones were a wife and mother in the 1930s. A likeable, unglamorous, ordinary character with whom many can empathize. The tone of delivery is perfect: exasperation at husband and anxiety over the domestic country life's many little vexations, without ever getting too woe-is-me that we would find her tiresome. So many keen insights into human behavior / society, that if persona were on Twitter today, she would be a hit. Wish I had read this sooner. The title makes it seem boring but this was a quick weekend read. ( )
  mrsrobin | Jun 24, 2017 |
This was a book I was happy to finish. I found it difficult to find much sympathy for the protagonist, who runs an overdraft at the bank throughout the book whilst employing a full-time cook, parlourmaid, and governess, as well as a gardener. When this begins to affect her nerves, she runs up bills at a London dress shop to soothe her ruffled feelings, or gads off to the coast of France, bemoaning the fact that her grandmother's diamond ring is at the pawnshop. Please.

I had hopes that something would happen, but it didn't -- or at least I could not perceive the story arc. The maid quits, provoked beyond endurance by the Vicar's wife; the replacement is unsatisfactory, and unsatisfied; a cameo appearance at the Garden Fete leaves us wondering if there is some story to come, but there isn't. A marriage is selfishly opposed by old Mrs Blenkinsop who bleats unceasingly of her own unselfishness; it takes place and Mrs B is inflicted with a jolly overbearing cousin. Grandmother's ring returns from the pawnbroker's. These are incidents, subplots at best. Interspersed are amusing musings on motherhood and random ideas. The book ends: "I say, Because I am writing my Diary. Robert replies, kindly but quite definitely, that In his opinion, That is Waste of Time. I get into bed and am confronted by Query: Can Robert be right? Can only leave reply to Posterity." I am in no way qualified to speak for Posterity, but I rather like the fact that Robert, so silent throughout the book, gets in the last word here.

Several times during the course of the book, I really could stand no more and turned to D.E. Stevenson's "Mrs Tim" series, also written in faux-diary style and recounting the daily life of an "ordinary" wife and mother, during a period a decade or two after Provincial Lady, but replete with characters much easier to enjoy (if not always to love; some of Mrs Tim's neighbours are believably horrible but funny, while Provincial Lady's are mildly annoying). Provincial Lady has much in common with Mrs Tim but lacks the spark of life that makes for a memorable and treasured book. ( )
1 vote muumi | Mar 3, 2017 |
I adored this darkly witty take on British life in the country. Very Mapp and Lucia, in the best way, with the added delight of the diarist's asides on motherhood. I'm sorry it took me so long to find it but I think now was the perfect time to read it.

Also, sorry that there's no picture of the pretty edition I have - a Virago reprint with a Cath Kidston cover. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
This charming novel, told in journal entries, gives readers a picture of a suburban, upper-middle-class British housewife's life in the late 1920s. She oscillates between duties (real or imagined) to her family, to her neighbors, to the local aristocracy, to the Women's Institute, and (lastly) to herself. In her own words, she shares her thoughts and opinions with her diary but keeps a very reserved, stereotypically British, outer self. She would rather maintain order and consistency than to speak her mind freely and openly, even when doing so would be beneficial.

At face value, this is a rather funny story about the madcap situations in which the housewife finds herself in everydaily life. She tries her utmost to do nice things - picnics, holiday trips, visits with friends & neighbors - which more often than not backfire and cause embarrassment, illness/injury, or an overdraft of her bank account. However, the book can also be read as a study of character types which may perpetuate cultural stereotypes.

Characters are seen as belonging to either the Domestic Sphere, or the Social Sphere. Of the family, there is the husband who spends more time reading (and falling asleep with) the daily paper than he does interacting with his family. He seems most at ease in his own home, and has no particular interest in going anywhere or doing anything. There is no mention of intimacy between him and his wife at all. The housewife worries constantly over finances, and wants so desperately to fit in with her community that she finds it difficult to live within her means. She is overly polite and deferential. The French governess, who never speaks English, alternates between strong outbursts of emotion and reprimand, and reserved comfort. The domestic servants perform their duties, but spare no occasion to voice their displeasure or to gently bully the housewife. The children are present sporadically, and are sometimes accompanied by a boarding school friend.

As for the social sphere, it is also full of interesting characters. The Vicar's wife pays many visits, and always overstays her welcome. The Women's Institute takes advantage of the housewife's nature and asks her to undertake lengthy speaking trips, to chair pointless committees, and to judge endless competitions. The local aristocrat, Lady Boxe, holds the position that her time is more valuable than anyone else's and shows great impertinence in most situations. One of the saddest characters in the entire novel is the elderly Mrs. Blenkinsop. When we are first introduced to her, she is a warm, vibrant, intelligent woman. When her adult daughter moves to The Himalayas with her fiance, Cousin Maude is sent to live with her. Through subsequent visits by the housewife, the reader sees Mrs. B's sharp intellectual and physical decline, under the constant belittlement and childlike treatment by Cousin Maude. This speaks sharply to the way older British citizens are treated by younger generations. There are encounters with feminists in London, highly educated folk who talk beyond the housewife's comprehension, and many others who lend color and commentary to the story.

Whilst reading this, I couldn't help but think of Helen Fielding's BRIDGET JONES' DIARY. The similarities are rather striking between the two stories. There's even a scene involving mistaken dress code, that leads to great embarrassment. They are by no means the same book, but it would be difficult for me to believe that Fielding was not in some way inspired by E.M. Delafield.

Overall, I found this to be a highly entertaining and enlightening story of British life and British society. It was a very brisk read, due mostly to the diary entry format, and is something I would very much like to reread in the future. ( )
  BooksForYears | Jul 10, 2016 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Delafield, E. M.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Antón, PatriciaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beauman, NicolaAfterwordsecondary 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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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".

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