Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Diary of a provincial lady (Delafield) VMC 162

As a child, living in a house of books and taken regularly to the library, I sometimes felt that I had nothing to read. And this would often start me on a foray into my parents books. Sometimes this was successful (see below), and sometimes not - particularly if I encountered a book which was just beyond me (The diary of a nobody is a good example - I didn't get it aged 8, and then rereading it aged 20 I just couldn't stop laughing and couldn't believe that I'd let it past me for so long). Anyway, The diary of a provincial lady was one of the more successful finds, and as it's already been mentioned in the comments on this blog, I felt I should write about it sooner rather than later.

Before there were blogs, we had diaries, and if the provincial lady was around today then I feel certain that she'd have a blog. The book takes us through the year in the life of a woman living in c1930s Devon (probably Plymouth). She juggles two small children, some domestic staff and her fairly absent husband whilst dealing with all of the problems that daily life brings, in particular financial worries. It's somewhat episodic, given the diary format, but there are hugely entertaining moments and the whole diary is delivered in a witty and comic manner. Aside from following the family's adventures and tribulations, I found that I loved the book for the insight it gives into life at this time and extremely detailed accounts of social circumstances. One wonders how much Delafield was drawing from her own life.

The VMC edition actually collects together three books which were originally published separately: The diary of a provincial lady, The provincial lady in America, and The provincial lady in wartime. The latter I find particularly good given my interest in WW2.

Simon at Stuck-in-a-book by the way includes it in his list of books that you really must read.

I don't have my own copy, and I don't think my father's copy would have been a Virago, but I am on the look out for one of these lovely covers (the bottom one is the lovely cloth covered hardback edition brought out earlier this year)

I notice from my master-plan that Delafield has two other VMC novels which I will need to read at some point - Thank heaven fasting and The way things are. I look forward to these immensely as Persephone books recently reissued her novel Consequences which I enjoyed very much.

Tomorrow we'll see what her daughter had to say...


  1. I have the top and the bottom editions! I couldn't resist the Cath Kidston cover on the hardback and the sequels in the original. I am desperate to read it/them and Consequences.

  2. I have the second Virago which also includes The Provincial Lady in America, but I also have old hardbacks of all of them...I think one of them has illustrations. I ADORE all of the books. They're absolutely hilarious. Consequences is very different...you wouldn't know it was the same author. I have The Way Things Are but I didn't find it as good as I wanted to be, though it is more like The Provincial Lady than Consequences. I'm always on the lookout for Thank Heaven Fasting, I've heard it's good.

  3. Yes, the Cath Kidson cover is rather lovely.

    I love them too Rachel. I discovered last night that my Dad has a Virago copy, so I am absolutely desperate to liberate that from his flat. But I know he reads it from time to time so he might notice its disappearance!

  4. Hurray for the Provincial Lady!

    The VMC should also include the second book, The Provincial Lady Goes Further, which is my favourite of the four. THF and TWTA are quite different - in fact, almost all of EMD's work is quite different from the PL books. They're very good, but much less funny and more social-issuey. I'm going to write about her book As Others Hear Us very soon... maybe tonight.

  5. Hurrah indeed. That would be great Simon, I'll put a link up on this post if you do :)

  6. I have exactly that Cath Kidson edition (plus an omnibus version by Virago). I just could not resist it in Waterstones last year. *Love* it.

  7. This is one of my favorite books of all time. I love her humor; I love the 'query' and 'NB' - I'm smiling just thinking about it.

  8. Yup...I am adding this to my tbr list. Thanks to Nan, I have Diary of a Nobody on my tbr list as well...I am glad to find another who has enjoyed it.

  9. It is a wonderful book and now I own both editions!