Saturday 14 April 2007

50 Books...

2. The Provincial Lady

Now, this is probably the book which will best guide you in an understanding of my literary tastes. Perhaps even whispering the word 'Persephone' would do that for many of you? Early twentieth-century domestic fiction doesn't come better than today's entry.

Next to be presented for inclusion in '50 books...' is The Provincial Lady, possibly well known to a lot of you out
there. If it's not, then BUY IT! Yes, it is not often that I shall wander into the forceful, but I cannot see any valid reason why this book is not in every household. Possibly several times. For backing up on this, may I direct you to the enthused ear of Random Jottings, one of my oldest (by which I mean, of course, longest-standing) e-friends. We bonded over EM Delafield about three years ago, and have sent a flurry of her books back and forth - is there a better basis for friendship than sharing a cherished author? Can't think of many.

For those who don't know, this is a fictional diary, based heavily on Delafield's own life and family. Not a great deal happens, but as we meander through the struggles of middle-class village life, the heroine's resigned, deadpan approach to everything becomes utterly irresistible. The book you see in the photo contains all four in the series - The Diary of a Provincial Lady; The Provincial Lady Goes Further (my favourite); The Provincial Lady in America; The Provincial Lady in Wartime. For stateside readers, the fourth of those is ' London'. Don't be fooled by The Provincial Lady in Russia. This was initially published as Straw Without Bricks, and is an account of Delafield's time in a Soviet collective (!!), and only later did publishers see the potential profit in labelling it one of the series.

Alongside the book is the cassette. Dramatised, with Imelda Staunton as PL, and rather wonderful - do try and track it down if you can.

And once you've read Provincial Lady... well, I love As Others Hear Us, Faster! Faster!, Mrs. Harter... I do hope Random Jottings will comment and give us further info, for she is the true
mine of knowledge on all things EMD. As is this website - it includes extracts, which should lure you in.

In other news, today was the Grand National. The Clan have an annual habit of picking a horse each, based entirely upon name and colours. This year, failing to notice one was called Simon, I plumped for Silver Birch - on the basis that Richmal Crompton wrote a book of short stories with the title. And it won! Shame our bets are of the imaginary kind...


  1. oh oh oh oh ... so glad I found your blog

    just now looked up the Delafield web page and discover The Provincial Daughter ... who lives in Vancouver ... just a ferry ride from where I live ... have you read it?

    to the library tomorrow to look up ... in America ... wish I could find the quartet ... might have to drive down to Portand for that one

    have you read Helene Hanff? 84 Charing Cross Road is my favorite

  2. You won't get any arguments from me on this choice Simon. One of my favourite books. I remember the first time I read it, lying in bed in fits of laughter. Have read it countless times and it always makes me laugh. I've just planted my spring bulbs this morning so I must make the sitting room ready for the arrival of Lady Boxe...

  3. I must go back and read it again. Super book!

  4. well here is Random Jottings Simon and of course I agree wholeheartedly with what you say. This is the book that started me off on my delafield/crompton/vonarnim/persephone trail and I simply love it. It is witty and funny and ironic and my old virago 'green' cover copy, which has all of them in(bar the Russian one) is falling apart. I am determined to hunt down another identical copy but will certainly not purchase the new edition. Though the visit to Russia was marketed as a Provincial Lady book and you quite rightly point out its proper title, it is very very funny indeed and well worth reading. I have about 20 of her books on my shelves and there are still more to hunt down. Please do get hold of it anyone who has not read this as you will simply love it

  5. CONFESSION: I have TPL & TPD but I haven'tread them yet. It must be in my genes. When my grandmother died we found gorgeous linen from her "Bottom Drawer" completely unused. You must "put things by for later".

  6. You had me at "Persephone" - the magic word! Afraid I haven't read Delafield, but keep seeing DPL everywhere recently, so shall have to get a copy.

  7. just finished reading The Provincial Lady ... loved every page ... falling over laughing

    best phrase that has stuck with us is "Robert said nothing" ... it pops up somewhere every day in our house under any number of circumstances, and we have another fit of laughter

    next one on top of stack on bedside table is Provincial Lady in London

    thanks again Simon for introducing me to these gems

  8. Hi! Thanks so much for checking out my blog! I love EM Delafield's books. I haven't read "The Provincial Lady in America" yet but have really enjoyed her other "Provincial Lady" books.

  9. On your recommendation I started hunting in secondhand bookshops for a copy of this. I finally found an omnibus copy with the first three in the series and managed to find an autographed copy of The Provincial Lady in War Time. I have read the first chapter....I am looking forward to making a proper start once I have finished I Capture the Castle


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