Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Diary of a Provincial Lady

While I am not particularly girly, I have to admit that I am a sucker for a Virago Modern Classic. The beautiful new cover designs are like catnip and make me want to buy them all up just so I can look at them all lined up on my shelf together. Shallow? Perhaps, but they make me happy and buying a hardback feels blissfully indulgent in these times of austerity.

Somewhat oddly, I seem to be making a new habit of old books. The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield was originally published in 1930.  I love novels that detail the social history of a time and this one deftly, but gently satirizes the life of an upper middle-class woman and stalwart member of the Women's Institute. The book, which started life as a serialization for a popular weekly, is set out as the "diary of a provincial lady" living in Devon.

She (we never learn her name) is plagued by her hapless husband, unruly children, troublesome servants and, of course, the unofficial "head lady" of the village to much comic effect, but really it is Delafield's use of language that endeared this book to me. (The same reason I was drawn to The Enchanted April; see that post here.) People don't write or speak this way any more and I so wish they did! One example: our heroine's husband must attend a funeral and she is helping him by pulling out "his accoutrements of woe". How wonderful is that?!

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