Friday, 24 April 2015

DIARY OF A PROVINCIAL LADY (and its sequels) by E.M. Delafield

This charmingly funny series of books has never been out of print. Apparently somewhat autobiographical, it is daily entries in a diary of a woman living in rural England in the 1930s and 40s. It cost me 99p and after the first I read all the others:
THE PROVINCIAL LADY GOES FURTHER
THE PROVINCIAL LADY IN AMERICA
THE PROVINCIAL LADY IN WARTIME

At first, the world is very sweet and innocent. A huge topic is what the vicar's wife wants for the Women's Institute. It's still startlingly modern though:
Lady B asks me at tea how the children are, and adds, to the table at large, that I am "A Perfect Mother." Am naturally avoided, conversationally, after this, by everybody at the tea table.
or
This disposes once and for all of fallacy that days seem long when spent in complete idleness. They seem, on the contrary, very much longer when filled with ceaseless activities

Later as we enter the war, it becomes inevitably darker. What's sad is as the second world war begins, she talks a lot about what the 'last war' was like, reminding one that a large number of people were so unlucky as to live through both wars (the author was born in 1890). It's also interesting to see modernity on its way. At first, she spends a lot of time complaining about her cook; but later she complains about never having been taught to cook (as if it's some miraculous ability that only a few people possess).

(As a side point: I wonder who is the first female comic novelist? I can't think of anyone earlier than this - so perhaps this book as well as being entertaining is also a historic document.)

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