Friday, September 16, 2011

Review: Diary of a Provincial Lady

This book is the satirical diary of a social climber trying to make an interesting life for herself in the English countryside. The provincial lady faces the problems of never enough money, unruly house and garden, never well-read enough, never attractive enough, and children never quite well-enough behaved. The provincial lady is constantly trying to be a model of attractive femininity, household management, and literary accomplishment. In all of these things the provincial lady claims to be coming up short, in part due to the multiple demands on upper-middle class women, and in part due to the very English tendency to underplay one's accomplishments. The provincial lady's world is populated by a host of amusing characters, snooty neighbors, oddball friends, and snarky servants. The book is certainly humorous, but perhaps longer than it needs to be. After the halfway point it starts to feel like more and more of the same. Repetitiveness is a double-edged sword. It certainly gives the reader a sense of the ponderousness of provincial life for many women, but it can start to sap the reader's energy too. This book is most effective when read in small increments, and is very much worth reading, particularly by those who enjoy early-20th century women's literature.

E.M. Delafield, Diary of a Provincial Lady (Academy Chicago Publishers, orig. 1930) ISBN: 0897330536

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