July 29, 2015

Review: The Diary of A Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield

Title: The Diary of A Provincial Lady

Author: E.M. Delafield

Publisher: Virago Press

Date of Publication: 1930

Number of Pages: 388


The Provincial Lady has a nice house, a nice husband (usually asleep behind The Times), and nice children. In fact, maintaining Niceness is the Provincial Lady’s goal in life—her raison d'être. She never raises her voice, rarely ventures outside Devon (why would she?), only occasionally allows herself to become vexed by the ongoing servant problem, and would be truly appalled by the confessional mode that has gripped the late 20th century. The Provincial Lady, after all, is part of what made Britain great.


The Diary of A Provincial Lady offered just what the title promised: the diary of a lady that lives in the English countryside. So, as it was expected it's filled with domestic problems, social gatherings and questions about the raising of the children. And what a delightful read was this novel!

There are many books that describe great adventures or have crazy and quirky characters. But then again there are novels, like this one, that focus on the everyday life, with completely ordinary characters. To be honest, it was refreshing to read The Diary of A Provincial Lady. The days passed and the entries of the diary described the life of this family around 1930. Moreover, the way of life that was described mustn't be far from the truth, as the whole novel felt partially autobiographical.

The need of the lady to maintain an excellent image for her social circle is something prominent on this diary. She tries to impress her husband's employer, Lady Boxe, which has everything that the lady doesn't (vacation on the South of France, first-class tickets for the train in London, important friends). This is also the reason why one of the things that always make her feel better is when she can gossip Lady B with the other ladies of the neighbourhood, like the Vicar's wife.

As you've probably guessed this isn't a rich family. In fact, their financial situation is grave. In many instances, the lady has to contact the bank and she even has to deposit valuable jewellery to a pawnbroker. A legacy from Robert's late godfather helps them a little, but the lady has a small tendency towards consumerism (there is always a new hat to be bought). The problem becomes more apparent when they have to search for a new maid. No-one is willing to go to the countryside with such a small wage they can afford. Nevertheless, they miraculously make ends meet.

Robert, the husband, although he is mentioned all of the time, for me he was absent for his family. For example, he didn't deal at all with any of these financial problems. He just let his wife take care of them. He also didn't let any of the domestic problems bother him, as long as he had his Times.

The Diary of A Provincial Lady is a great read. The humour is dry and because of this the novel is a hit or miss. It worked for me and if you like this style of comedy then you're going to love it. Don't hesitate to give it a try!

So, my advice is...

Buy a new hat!       


  1. I haven't read the book yet but perhaps the husband's 'Times' was like the Lady's 'new hats'? Regardless I look forward to reading this at some point. When I do I think I might do a little history research just to put things in perspective. Sometimes a little context can make things even funnier.

    1. Yes, the story in context might be even funnier. Maybe it was like the new hats, but it irritated me that he chose when to answer and he chose not to bother about their problems.

  2. Great Review, This sounds like such a awesome read, and one I likely wouldn't find myself
    ~Tori @ InToriLex

    1. Such a funny read! Even though it was written in 1930, the humour remains relevant! :)

  3. I love books that are so realistic and just feel like you're reading about everyday life, so I am adding this to my list! :)


    1. And I highly recommend this one! Plus you get to learn what it was like to live in Britain in 1930 :)

  4. I'd definitely need to read this book! Awesome review:-)


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