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Diary of a Provincial Lady

(The Provincial Lady #1)

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3.93  ·  Rating details ·  4,431 ratings  ·  614 reviews
When Diary of a Provincial Lady was first published in 1930, critics on both sides of the Atlantic greeted it with enthusiasm. This charming, delightful and extremely funny book about daily life in a frugal English household was named by booksellers as the out-of-print novel most deserving of republication.

This is a gently self-effacing, dry-witted tale of a long-suffering
...more
Hardcover, 201 pages
Published 1999 by Prion Books (first published 1930)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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Carolyn
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is such a charming little book. Written in the 1930s as a series of newspaper columns, it comments wryly on the everyday doings of a wealthy family and their neighbours. The Provincial Lady has a mostly silent and disengaged husband, a young daughter who has a French nanny and a slightly older son who has been packed off to prep school, returning periodically for school holidays to disrupt the household. She muses on the difficulties of parenting, the problem of hiring good household staff, ...more
Idarah
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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"March 12th. —Resign from Book of the Month, owing to wide and ever-increasing divergence of opinion between us as to merits or demerits of recently published fiction. Write them long and eloquent letter about this, but remember after it is posted that I still owe them twelve shillings and sixpence for Maurois's Byron."

I adored this book! I've been saving it for about ten years, because I tend to do that with books I know I will absolutely love. And I wasn't off the mark. I found this book h
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Susan
Apr 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although published in book form in 1934, the “Diary of a Provincial Lady,” started life in 1930 as a serial in “Time and Tide.” Largely autobiographical, Delafield substituted the names “Robin” and “Vicky” for her own children, called Lionel and Rosamund, but, aside from name changes, this is very much a light hearted diary of country life and based upon the author’s own experiences.

The Provincial Lady deals with domestic disasters, the W.I., a monosyllabic husband, mutinous staff and the boss
...more
Jane
Mar 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I must admit that I have have been shy of meeting the Provincial Lady for such a long time.

You see she was so popular, I read so much praise for her wit and her charm, that I became the bookish equivilent of the shy child, who was so often tongue-tied and could never quite keep up with the leading lights.

I resisted a green Virago Modern Classics omnibus containg this book and its three sequels; I resisted a lovely anniversary edition clothed by Cath Kidson; but when a new Persephone edition appe
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Bloodorange
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
1. This is good to read if you're interested in the origins of blog as a genre. The author essentially thinly disguises her life as fiction in an attempt to earn some money by way of entering literary competitions, something that was one of very few ways of earning money available to a woman of her social position. The strength of the book lies in the humour (but it's pretty watered down and barely caustic, unless you're really unacquainted with the variety) and the way the writer presents herse ...more
Hilary
2.5 stars. I thought I would like this book more than I did. There were some funny parts but I found it repetitive. I found it hard to empathise with this character's worries and struggles given the amount of staff and time off she seemed to have !
Chari
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favoritos, 2019
My cup of tea
Caroline
Jan 04, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Caroline by: Kirsty
Shelves: novels
Written in 1930, this is a delightful romp through the joys and tribulations of a being an upper crust housewife in the country.

This book was very much based on the real life of its author. She had the right credentials for writing this story. As a teenager she was a debutante, then she married a colonel and had two children. She was also made president of her local Women’s Institute, and held this position for life. (This organisation is the ultimate custodian of country life in the UK.) On to
...more
Margaret
Delafield's marvelous Provincial Lady books are a series of journals written by a middle-class wife and mother, who is full of wit and literary aspirations but who is also tied down to her domestic duties; although she eventually achieves literary success, she still has to pull off a tricky balancing act between her professional and personal lives. A parade of notable characters, often based on Delafield's friends and family, inhabit the pages of the books: the diarist's husband Robert, stolid a ...more
Tony
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Tee-hee-hee?

Tee-hee-hee-dious!
Pink
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is me. At least if I was a 1930's English country wife. Lavishing my children, barely mentioning my husband and escaping to London or abroad whenever possible. Then there's juggling the finances, fobbing off the banks, trying to retain the cook and choosing which new hat to purchase. Screamingly funny, if you enjoy reading about an upper class lady trying to have it all, or at least muddle through.
Lyuda
Jun 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dear Provincial Lady,

I would never know your name but your amusing and witty diary charmed and humored me. Your observations of life, people and happenings are clever, astute, insightful and remarkably revealing. I love your snarky voice as you recount your daily activities. They may not be earth shuttering or monumental in nature but they help me understand your life and time (1930s English village) so much better. Your diary is not filled with pompous musings or elegant language, but rather wi
...more
Nigeyb
Mar 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Diary of a Provincial Lady is a charming, wry, satirical glimpse into the world of the upper-middle class in Devonshire, England in the late 1920s/early 1930s.

In 1929, the large-circulation feminist weekly magazine Time and Tide, wanted something light and readable, preferably in serial form, to fill the centre pages, and thus The Provincial Lady was born. Seemingly at once, E.M. Delafield discovered her true vocation was as a comic writer.

The book version was published in 1930, and The Dia
...more
Ivonne Rovira
Feb 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Jenn Mann
Recommended to Ivonne by: Ruth Ware
I have meant to read E.M. Delafield’s The Diary of a Provincial Lady for years, although I really didn’t know what it was. An Edwardian gardener’s observations (lots of flowers on some editions)? A turn-of-the-century suffragist speaking on the Question of the Day?

Actually, it took author Ruth Ware’s recommendation to jolt me into buying the book; I was rather surprised at her speaking of reading and re-reading this book — so different to Ware’s own suspenseful air. Set in 1930, the book is rat
...more
Eleanor
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-books, humour
A light and delightful read after the seriousness of "The Master". The diary covers a year in the life of a married woman with two children living in an English village between the Wars. Lots of very amusing events and descriptions of life, but my favourite was in July when she received a letter from a close friend who was on holiday in the south of France and asking her to go there for a fortnight.

"I am moved to exclaim - perhaps rather thoughtlessly - that the most wonderful thing in the world
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Susan
3.5*
This book, written in the form of a journal, charts the day to day life of a 1930's wife and mother, not only juggling husband, children and her temperamental cook, but also trying to keep up with the many social obligations she finds herself faced with, whilst remaining cool, calm and collected.

It's a witty and amusing peep into how one woman copes with keeping up appearances, despite having a husband who is much more interested in his newspaper than her social dilemmas, as well as snobby a
...more
Emilia Barnes
Well, it is what it is. If you're looking for plot, action, anything like that, you're not going to find it here. Imagine Bridget Jones's diary without the romance or any overarching plot points. Essentially much more like a real diary - a slice of life.

It did make me laugh once, and smile a couple of times, but I'm not sure it's the sort of thing you want to sit down and read. For listening to while you walk your dog, though, it's all right. Plus, if you're into the period, lots of interesting
...more
Ali
Feb 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having treated myself to the new Persephone edition of Diary of a Provincial Lady I decided to re-read it right away. One of the things that sold me on the new edition (already owning an old Virago copy of the complete Provincial lady) was the lovely endpaper – which will remain one of my favourites.

Our eponymous Provincial Lady – is an upper middle class wife and mother – who records in her journal the daily vicissitudes of life. Married to the often taciturn Robert, mother to Robin and Vicky,
...more
Cynthia Dunn
Sorry, but I enjoyed Henrietta's War and Henrietta Sees it Through by Joyce Dennys much more. I will try the others and see if I like them.
Leslie
Jan 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5★ I loved this -- in part because I like almost all the English satires of the period between the 2 World Wars. But this thinly disguised memoir wouldn't be the classic it is if it didn't contain commentary & queries about situations women face in other times & places. While problems with servants, lack of money (relatively speaking!), and the Women's Institute are not universal, who hasn't had the experience of someone saying something unpleasant, then "Think of several rather tart and witty ...more
Laura
Oct 28, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Bettie, Wanda
Recommended to Laura by: Gabriele Wills
From BBC Radio 4 - Book at Bedtime:
E M Delafield was great friends with Margaret Mackworth, 2nd Viscountess Rhondda, and became a director of Time and Tide magazine. When the editor "wanted some light 'middles', preferably in serial form, she promised to think of something". And so it was, in 1930, that her most popular and enduring work The Diary of a Provincial Lady was written. It has never been out of print.

The Diary of a Provincial Lady charts the day-to-day life of a Devonshire-dwelling la
...more
Cphe
Oct 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Written in a light hearted and humorous vein. This journal style offering documents the insights, thoughts and observations into the life of a much put upon housewife and mother living in rural England in the 1930's.

All of the characters are well depicted, even the husband Robert who is in my opinion a bit of an old stick in the mud.
Pixelina
Jan 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: bbc-radio, z2015-read
Can't help but compare this to Any Human Heart that I am listening to parallell to this. Both (right now) in England in pre-war and in journal format.
This seem like mindless chatter, somewhat fun and interesting just due to the time it portraits. But really nothing that I will remember a week from now.
While Any human heart, also a fabricated journal is so much fuller, richer.
How I wish Delafield would have shared something a little more personal, a little more of her human heart.
...more
Maine Colonial
Entertaining novel in the form of a diary that reminded me of the works of E. F. Benson's Lucia novels. While describing the most mundane details of life, Delafield practically teaches a class on life in the English provinces in the 1930s, and is especially revelatory about the class system at the time. To do all that amusingly is an accomplishment.
❀⊱RoryReads⊰❀
So funny and charming. I'm happy to see that she wrote more!
Sotiria
This is an utterly entertaining, whimsical book that follows the everyday life of a middle-class English family through the lens of the witty and caustically funny mother. I loved the language -the repeated use of the word "madly" in the most peculiar and hilarious ways had me giggling uncontrollably- and the way our Lady commented on everyone around her.
Totally recommend it for anyone looking for quality escapism and a taste of the 20th century provincial life of a scintillating woman!
Bettie


Description: The Diary of a Provincial Lady is a brilliantly observed comic novel, as funny and fresh today as when it was first written. It's not easy being a Provincial Lady in Devonshire in the 1920s, juggling a grumpy husband, mischievous children and a host of domestic dilemmas - from rice mould to a petulant cook. But this Provincial Lady will not be defeated; not by wayward flower bulbs, not by unexpected houseguests, not even by the Blitz. She will continue to preside over the W.I., endu
...more
Tania
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humour, middlebrow
Diary of a Provincial Lady, was written between the wars, and is a charming and witty book, telling us of a typical country woman's life. (Of her class, anyway).
She worries about planting her bulbs too late, about the bills coming in, where to find servants in the country and generally, in keeping up appearances.
The characters are well drawn, from the infuriating Lady B, The vicar and his wife who seems to spend her whole time gossiping.
Nice, easy and entertaining. Perfect for a Sunday afte
...more
Paula
Oct 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: between-the-wars
British wit is good stuff. Comments about life are insightful, poignant and witty. Style of writing proves challenge as desire to learn more about character weighs heavily. (Query: do women such as this still exist, and if so, can I have a cup of tea with them on a frequent basis?)

See myself re-reading this and giving it higher ranking in future. Immediately post-read still feel a bit unsatisfied but perhaps that is sign of good author?
Lea
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lovely, funny, amazingly relatable! Not that many people seem to know of this book nowadays, but its influence is very much present in popular best-sellers such as Bridget Jones and the Shopaholic series.

In fact I am now convinced that Bridget Jones is basically a reboot of this book for the 90s, with some Pride and Prejudice and some Cosmo nonsense thrown in. (The Cosmo influence is probably why Bridget Jones sounds positively regressive next to this book, which is actually from the 1930s).
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Bright Young Things: May 2015- Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield 59 25 Aug 23, 2015 02:53PM  

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Edmée Elizabeth Monica Dashwood, née de la Pasture (9 June 1890 – 2 December 1943), commonly known as E. M. Delafield, was a prolific English author who is best-known for her largely autobiographical Diary of a Provincial Lady, which took the form of a journal of the life of an upper-middle class Englishwoman living mostly in a Devon village of the 1930s, and its sequels in which the Provincial La ...more

Other books in the series

The Provincial Lady (5 books)
  • The Provincial Lady in London
  • The Provincial Lady in America
  • The Provincial Lady in Wartime
  • The Provincial Lady in Russia

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