I have been reading on book blogs, for what feels like years, rave reviews for E.M. Delafield's 'The Diary of a Provincial Lady.' Maybe it was the title or the fact that I always confuse the author with someone else (I am my mother's son), but I never got around to reading it. Or had an honest interest. While perusing the newly restored library -a lot can happen in three months to an olde haunt, not sure if I'm positive about it- I stumbled across a lovely edition. 'Oh, here it is!' I unfortunately exclaimed out loud. Inside were rave reviews: 'You will laugh out loud.' 'Unique.' 'Priceless.' I was convinced.
I opened it a few days later and laughed my way to it's finish. We don't know her name, but we know her inner thoughts and feelings of inadequacy. We know her children that she loves dearly and her husband, whom I personally hope she divorces. We know her true friends and her friends who she feels she must impress. She was so relatable... at least to me. Her life was filled with havoc and innocent mistakes, often with unfortunate results. I don't want to make it sound slapstick, but the reality of her life and her thoughts on it were hysterical and brilliant.
There were so many highlights but my favorite was when her new neighbor, literary Miss Pankerton pops in (we know how we all despise pop-ins) with her Bloomsbury friend, Jahsper, for a visit:
...Jahsper, still dabbling at injured eye, contributes austere statement to the effect that only the Russians really understand Beauty in Nomenclature. Am again horrified at hearing myself interject "Ivan Ivanovitch" in entirely detached and irrelevant manner, and really begin to wonder if mental weakness is overtaking me. Moreover, am certain that I have given Miss P. direct lean in the direction of Dostoeffsky, about whom I do not wish to hear, and am altogether unable to converse.
Entire situation is, however, revolutionised by totally unexpeceted entrance of Robin -staggering beneath my fur coat and last summer's red crinoline straw hat -Henry, draped in blue kimono, several scarves belonging to Mademoiselle, old pair of fur gloves, with scarlet school-cap inappropriately crowning all -and Vicky wearing nothing whatever but small pair of green silk knickerbockers and large and unfamiliar black felt hat put on at rakish angle.
If I ever have kids, I know this will happen to me...it most assuredly happened to my mother.
Was there a plot? I'm not sure. But does one's diary have a plot? What we have here is a glimpse of a woman's life in the interwar, with no silver linings or smoke and mirrors.
I first read about this at Stuck in a Book
, and he tells me there are three more to look forward to, which I can't tell you how pleased I am to hear. If you know how to laugh at yourself and not take yourself too seriously, this book will appeal to you. For the rest of you, reading it will probably give you 'an attack.'
Image above: Love's Greatest Mistake, James Flagg.