This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Long, long before Bridget Jones was stepping on the scales every morning and meticulously tabulating consumed alcohol units, there was a diary writer recording the peculiar on goings, in a small, provincial village of 1930’s England. Witty and with an absurd knack for picking out the ridiculous in mundane situations, E.M. Delafield, author of ‘The Diary of a Provincial Lady’ is very, very funny.
Delafield leads us through a year-long romp of what it must have been like to be a pre-war housewife: counting the pennies and occasionally placing a great-aunt’s diamond ring, in the friendly hands of one of Plymouth’s back street pawn broking establishments. In the meantime the aura of genteel respectability is maintained with the help of an irate Cook, house parlourmaid, a membership at a club in Town and half-term breaks in Bournemouth.
Add to this cast of characters the Provincial Lady’s slightly chauvinistic husband Robert, two adorable children who say the funniest things, Lady Boxe- the imperious neighbour making the village rounds in her Bentley, the friendly Vicar, the very talkative ‘Our Vicar’s Wife’, a London friend called Rose and you have the makings of a very good entertainment.
The best thing about these characters is how each of them is coupled to the brilliant comic sketches of the talented Arthur Watts, just as they were originally serially published with the story, in the weekly circulation magazine ‘Time and Tide’. Lady Boxe is wearing a choker and long evening dress, Robert is sleepily ensconced in the depths of a curvy armchair on the pretext of reading The Times, Cook is wonderfully plump and indignant and the Rector wears a perpetually congenial smile.
So what exactly happens in the book? If you’re expecting a well thought-out, intricate plot, you would be disappointed. There are lots of trips to London, sometimes in search of domestic help. There are frequent dinner parties where the topic of chilblains is woefully lamented. Our Vicar’s Wife will keep you up till the wee hours (topics range from Stanley Baldwin, forthcoming village concert, the death of the Begum of Bhopal, parrot disease, and scenery in the Lake Country) and there is a village romance that the entire country folk have to participate in, to ensure that our hero and heroine live happily ever after.
If you’re looking for a feel-good, funny yet intelligent classic, then ‘The Diary of a Provincial Lady’ is the book for you. The Diary-Writer has the adorable, scatter-brained attitude of Bridget Jones and the same talent for being overdrawn as Kinsella’s Becky Bloomwood, but her story remains delightfully her own. This book will ensure that you travel back in time to a bucolic period in English rural history.
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