Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Diary of a Provincial Lady

By E. M. Delafield

The lady is question is never named, but we do get to meet her husband and two children. The husband is an estate manager or something like that, the youngest child has a live-in governess and the other child attends private school. The lady is a "woman of leisure" but as she points out, she has almost no actual leisure time. Most of her time is taken up with social obligations and attempting to maintain a smooth-running household, helped by a couple of maids, a cook, and a gardener. She and her family are members of the upper middle class in England of the 1930s and it is of vital importance to keep up appearances. She and her husband are frequently called upon to attend various functions and a lot of her time and effort are taken up with coping with those demands, on top of which is their rather limited income. Her servants are discontent, her children often unruly, her husband at times unfeeling and demanding and her life is a constant balancing act between what is expected and what can be afforded. Keeping up appearances means having to pawn her jewelry at times in order to afford a new dress or to put money in the bank, as she is chronically overdrawn. It is a bit of a rat race, but throughout it all, her wry and sly comments about herself and those around her help her cope with all the demands and amuse and charm her readers.

Even though this book was written back in the 1930s, it is still very funny and revealing of a lifestyle that is probably still practiced by many. Delafield based the book on her own life and she quite a prolific author, and followed up Diary with several more books based on her life. I did enjoy the book a lot, after I got over the fact that she had all those servants but was continually grousing about the shortage of funds. I guess a woman of her class was required to maintain a certain lifestyle or lose the respect of her peers.
For a better review of the book, check out

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