Wednesday 19 January 2011

Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M.Delafield

Pages 201

This edition published in 2000 by Prion.

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 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.

Hmmm, I stand before you wearing extra protection, pillows up my jumper, seat cushions down my leggings and waving a white flag. So before you all through things at me in disgust, I will whisper quietly to you that I didn't like this one as much as Henrietta's War. I know you all loved it and raved about it, so I am sorry. Don't decide to disown me for my shallow views.  I know this is a classic book, but I struggled with it. I didn't completely dislike it, it just didn't hold my interest as much. Henrietta's War had me in stitches, where as I didn't laugh at this at all. I am aware though that my sense of humour is rather unique and I find things funny that others don't, to the point they stop, stare and point, as the funny lady, jigging up and down in silence, face all red and ready to burst.

For those of you, who like me, might not have heard of this classic, it was written as a serial of articles for the Time and Tide magazine during the thirties. It is written in diary format and follows the events of a Devonshire mother and wife who lives with a cold hearted bore and struggles to cope with the day to day running of her children and her home. 

One of the things I did like about this book. I could relate to it. This stressed mum of two could be transported into any time zone and she would fit right in next to the mothers of today. We can all put our hands up to feeling stressed with our lives, struggling with our children, trying to make the pounds and penny stretch that little bit further and wanting to swipe a cushion at our husband's occasionally when they are in disagreement, though instead we sit and seethe quietly, muttering obscenities under our breath. This is the universal role of the mother/ wife/ girlfriend. For this, I can see that this book is a timeless piece that will appeal to every mother in the world.

I also liked the historical value of the book. I enjoyed being able to read about life in the 30's from the viewpoint of a woman of similar age to myself. I got a glimpse of how my grandparents would have lived. Although, we were much further down the social ladder during that era.

Now as much as I like being able to relate to the main character, I found her personality to be weak willed and lacking in confidence. I wanted to give her a good shake and get her to stand up to everyone she came in contact with.  Especially when her husband drowned the kittens. I want to scream at her to make him stop. I know that it was a common cruelty in that time period, but it just felt cruel and heartless and I couldn't manage anyone standing by and watching. She needs a bit of girl power mixed in with her porridge.

 I also had a few issues with the writing style. Firstly, I don't speak a word of French. I did study it at O'level, but to be honest, I wasn't very good. In fact, during my French Oral, my examiner actually laughed at my pronunciation and interpretation.  So to be confronted with Mademoiselle chattering away in French, was a bit of a shock to the system. I could understand very little of what she was saying and was far too lazy to stick it into the translator program on the Internet.  Now knowing what a literary multilingual bunch you are, this would cause you all no problem at all, but for me it was an issue.

I also found the sentences rather short and abrupt. Now I know, these were written as short pieces for a magazine, so word count would have been a major issue for Delafield, so I can understand why they are like they are, however I found them annoying.

I also didn't like the constant use of capital letters used in the prose.  For instance,

'there Isn't a Shingled Head to be seen anywhere'

I am aware it was used for emphasis, but I am sorry to say it wound me up. 

So on the whole it was simply OK for me, I neither loved it or hated it, but I didn't like it as much as Henrietta's War by Joyce Dennys.


  1. I'm one of those who's never heard of this book and I don't think I'll seek it out either.

  2. Henrietta's War has been on my wish list ever since it came out, but I haven't really wanted to read this one... think I'll leave it that way.

  3. I hate when that happens, you rave and rave about a book, and then another one is not nearly as good. Been there, done that

  4. I guess I should be wearing protective padding along with you because I gave this book a try a few years ago, and never finished it. But like you, I loved Henrietta's War!

  5. Well, if you ever had to sell me on Henrietta's War, you did so in this review for another book ;-)

  6. I have never heard of this one. The use of those capital letters like that would annoy me too.
    I like the cover though.


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