The Diary of Provincial Lady
So many folks have read, reviewed, and loved this one, that I am not sure what I can add. It is the first time I have read anything by E.M. Delafield and I certainly enjoyed it. Written entirely in diary form, Delafield chronicles the life of this provincial lady (do we ever learn her name?) in a way that humorously describes all the little details that add up to a life. The diary entries brilliantly capture the episodic, shorthanded cadence so typical of how one thinks about things. Not always in lovely complete sentences, but short bursts of thought, like thousands of brain synapses firing directly onto the page. There is much that made me chuckle in this book. And of course I love a good bit of domestic detail and this book does not disappoint on that account.
The Diary of a Provincial Lady has all the hallmarks of the upper middle-class (lower upper-class?) in 1930s Britain where appearances trump everything from budget to happiness. And the inevitable shortage of servants and overdrawn bank account. One of the more amusing reoccurring themes is the tendency to talk about things one knows nothing about: exhibitions not seen, places not visited, and most of all books not read.
Am asked what I think of Harriet Hume but am unable to say, as I have not read it. Have a depressed feeling that this is going to be another case of Orlando about which was perfectly able to talk most intelligently until I read it, and found myself unfortunately unable to understand any of it.
Although I enjoyed reading this very much, there was a huge part of my middle-class, American, OCD brain that kept wanting to “fix” what was wrong in the lady’s life. First, her inability to remove herself from social situations that are unpleasant. The constant struggle to impress Lady B, the friends who invite themselves over to stay for a few nights, etc. Just say no dammit. Then her inability to live within her means. It is no different than the legions of people today who live a life of economic lies. Buying things and going into debt for a lifestyle that can’t be supported. Here is an idea, take Robin out of school, put him in the local grammar, get rid of Mademoiselle and take care of your daughter yourself, (and maybe let her go to school as well so that she doesn’t end up unable to make her own living one day) and quit wasting money on bulbs and bulb supplies. Little things add up and you can’t afford it. And for goodness sakes take that 500 pound windfall and pay off as many of your creditors as possible, why should the hard work of tradespeople go uncompensated just to support you in your lofty lazy life?
BUT, I know this is not in the spirit of the book and I shouldn’t really apply today’s reality to yesterday’s fiction, but therapy can only do so much to cure me of wanting to fix people.
Looking for a light, fun, Anglophilic romp of a read? This one is for you.