What a hoot! I love it when books stand the test of time, don’t you? Written in the 1920s and published in 1930, this fictitious diary relates the day-to-day life and often unspoken (well, un-speakable!) thoughts of the wife of business manager at a somewhat large Stately home estate in Southern England, owned by Lady Box. Portsmouth is the nearest city–hence “Provincial.”
Here are her thoughts on arriving at a function at Lady B’s….
“Received by Lady B. …surrounded by a bevy of equally bejeweled friends. She smiles graciously and shakes hands without looking at any of us, and strange fancy crosses my mind that it could be agreeable to bestow on her sudden sharp shaking, and thus compel her to recognize existence of at least one of guests invited to her house.” (p. 383).
Her true thoughts on people and events are what make the book such fun. Her husband, Robert, makes rare appearances and tends only to put in a word about the coffee or some other mundane matter and, if at home, can generally be found asleep behind the Times. Son Robin, age 9, is at boarding school but appears in the holidays, usually with a school friend in tow. Daughter Vicky, 6, is looked after by a governess known simply as Mademoiselle. Then there are the friends, neighbors, and others about whom she has most thoughts. Her attempts at economy are great–having beans on toast and water for lunch when shopping, but then deciding she “must” have a new evening dress! We can all relate!
I loved this book from start-to-finish. I truly understand why it has never been out of print. One comment–I’ve never seen so much truly awful and inappropriate cover art on a book in my life as was slapped on later editions of this marvelous book. What hacks created it, I’d like to know? I chose the cover at the top of this post as it seems most likely the original.
Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield.
Do you enjoy epistolary novels–stories told in diary or letter form or similar? Check out these past posts on such books.