Monday, 2 May 2011

Thank heaven fasting (E.M. Delafield)

Thank you everyone (especially those of you who de-lurked!) for the attempts to enthuse me about my VMC pile. Hearing people sound so excited about some of the titles did cheer me up a bit, and it reminded me that I did very much want to read both the Miles Franklin and the E.M. Delafield. So, I picked the E.M. Delafield as it was shorter: Thank heaven fasting.

It was a good read, although it raised lots of thoughts in my mind about the status of women and how lucky I am, living in the twentieth century about to be married...

The book opens with Monica, going with her mother to the dressmaker to get a gown to wear for her "Coming out". Monica is excited but also deeply concerned, for in her mind, "coming out" is deeply connected with the need for her to find a husband - her position in life will entirely depend on whether or not she succeeds (and girls encountered who are several seasons in and as yet un-engaged are pointed out with deep suspicion). We follow her as she attends her first dinner and ball, strongly influenced by her mother as to how she may or may not behave, and how she nearly brings shame upon herself by spending time with one man alone. As the book continues, tension rises as one wonders whether or not Monica will find a husband or whether mother will be left making excuses for her daughter's apparently inability to become engaged.

It made me sad that girls like Monica should not have had the chance either to pursue romance more informally or really to pursue success on a more personal level - through finding a career or fulfilment in doing some sort of charitable endeavour rather than through a man. I sensed that Delafield thought the same as although even Monica's mother, concerned with social status, is sympathetically drawn, she is pretty scathing towards the society that carries out these practices.

I felt lucky reading this that I had the chance to pursue both a university education, and a career, and, that never really expecting to get married, I met someone entirely without trying and am exactly three months away from my own wedding day.

Sadly, although Delafield wrote a number of novels, only two of the others (including Diary of a Provincial Lady) have made it onto the VMC list. I previously greatly enjoyed the non VMC War-workers, and also was gripped by the Persephone-published Consequences. I've sought out a friend who has quite a collection and will see if I can borrow some of the more obscure ones from him.

Unlike the Diary... this has only been published once by Virago with an original green cover.


  1. I read this decades ago and the last line still haunts me.

    I envy you your friend...

  2. This is one of those titles I can't wait to discover during one of my second-hand book scrounges. Too bad Delafield is so difficult to stumble upon, hopefully there are plans to reprint more of her work and soon!

  3. Sounds good, I'll have to look out for it. I've just got 'Consequences' through the post - can't wait to start.