Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Diary of a Provincial Lady

The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield
Published by Virago Modern Classics
First published in 1930
Paperback Edition

The Provincial Lady has a nice house, a nice husband (usually asleep behind The Times) and nice children.  In fact, maintaining Niceness is the Provincial Lady's goal in life - her raison d'etre.  She never raises her voice, rarely ventures outside Devon (why would she?), only occasionally allows herself to become vexed by the ongoing servant problem, and would be truly appalled by the confessional mode of the late twentieth century.  The Provincial Lady is, after all, part of what made Britain great.

November 7th - Plant the indoor bulbs. Just as I am in the middle of them, Lady Boxe calls.  I say, untruthfully, how nice to see her, and beg her to sit down while I just finish the bulbs. Lady B. makes a determined attempt to sit down in armchair where I have already placed two bulb-bowls and the bag of charcoal, is headed off just in time, and takes the sofa.
     Do I know, she asks, how very late it is for indoor bulbs?  September, really, or even October, is the time.  Do I know that the only really reliable firm for hyacinths is Somebody of Haarlem?  Cannot catch the name of the firm, which is Dutch, but reply Yes, I do know, but think it my duty to buy Empire products.  Feel at the time, and still think, that this is an excellent reply.  Unfortunately Vicky comes into the drawing-room later and says: "Oh, Mummie, are those the bulbs we got at Woolworth's?"

I love books that you can just dip in and out of, and The Diary of a Provincial Lady is just right for this.  Written in 1930 by E. M. Delafield, it evenutally became four books, all containing the diary extracts of, as you may have guessed, a provincial lady.  If you thought that when Helen Fielding created Bridget Jones she was being original, then you need to read this; E. M. Delafield definitely did it first.  The extracts are short, snappy and extremely funny.  And who can fail to love a book that actually begins on their birthday?!  I think the joy of this book can be justified by the number of times that it has been published, and republished.  I love the variety of the covers.

1947 dust jacket

The Cath Kidston version

In fact, such is the love for this book, that the fantastic Persephone Books are releasing it in April (but if you go to their website you can buy it early, for £8, until February 14th).

If I didn't already have a copy, I'd be buying this one!

This is the perfect book for curling up in an armchair with, whilst the world goes by.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x


  1. I have often wondered about this book, as I have seen excerpts from it in other books, or mentions of it, but never read it, so it is good to see your review Ginny. I have ordered the Persephone Catalogue after your recommendation and am waiting for it to arrive, but I will go and check out the website further in the meantime! Thank you for this review!! xx

  2. Great review and I've just gone over to amazon and bought the kindle edition after reading a little more of the sample. I know 'kindle', it makes me wince too but the convenience is just too great sometimes and especially for a dip and pick book as I never read just as much when I am using my phone app compared to a real book.

  3. Thank you for your comments, I hope you love it as much as I do! X

  4. I have ordered and received my Persephone copy. I am sure I red this book back in the dim and distant past, but i shall enjoy it all over again.
    You blog has help me find and re-find books to enjoy, thank you.


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