E.M Delafield’s ‘The Diary of a Provincial Lady’ is a book that has been recommended to me umpteen times through the blogosphere. When a book comes under so much glowing praise firstly I have a good old think for about two seconds before I run off and grab a copy, then when I get it home I don’t read it instantly, oh no, I look at it on and off for a few weeks with trepidation instead. Will I actually like it? Have these lovely people got my book taste just so? What on earth will they think of me if I don’t like it? It can actually prove somewhat vexing.
Now really the title of this book does kind of tell you what’s coming. This is a fictional ‘Diary of a Provincial Lady’ though having a wander through the internet etc it turns out that actually this was quite an autobiographical volume of E.M. Delafield’s work. We follow our narrator through a year of village life as she copes with village life, marriage, children, cooks, neighbours and the like for just under a year. That is pretty much the premise of the book, throw in some very dry, wry (I am rather loving this word at the moment, deadpan humour and a bunch of rather wonderfully bizarre local characters and there you have a novel that you will sit grinning through.
The book is not one which is heavy on plot. Instead it is much more based on observational humour yet to my mind there was also a slight sadness to it. Whilst you have the cook who is always on the verge of quitting, the children who mystify their mother, nosey neighbours and the wonderful Lady Boxe who our narrator is ever in competition with and who constantly questions their friendship, I suppose you would call them ‘frenemies’ or some such in today’s world. There is also a husband that really never listens to his wife or seems to care which really is quite odd and the more I thought from that aspect and took into account all the friendships too I suddenly felt that actually our hilarious heroine is quite alienated and isolated. That could just be me of course has anyone else spotted this? It just stuck out to me amongst all the inane grinning I was doing!
Grin a lot I did, no actual out loud laughter but a lot of grinning and I think a smirk or two. I am probably preaching to the converted with this book as I am sure that many of you have already had the pleasure of this novel and possibly its subsequent series The Provincial Lady Goes Further, The Provincial Lady in America and The Provincial Lady in Wartime which I might have a search for and read one day. In fact, and I have this on the TBR at the moment, E.M Delafield’s daughter R.M. Dashwood went on to write ‘Provincial Daughter’ and I am looking forward to reading that in the not too distant future.
A very enjoyable read all in all and one that you can either divulge in an afternoon or dip into now and again from the bedside table. I must forewarn people though that there is some discussion on a certain shopping site about the fact some books advertise three of the volumes and yet only contain the one. I can’t speak for the normal paperback as I bought the delightful Cath Kidston (perfect designer to cover this book) covered edition which is just the first volume.
If like me you enjoy crazy characters, wry observational humour and village life then I doubt very much you could resist its charms. I am wondering what other rare gems that fall under that category of book I am yet to read.