Hive’s much-loved book: The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E M. Delafield



Once upon a time in the 1970s a trainee bookseller was given a new task, go forth and meet publishers representatives and buy lots of lovely new books but don’t let them sell you too much! So, the representative persuaded the trainee to buy a display spinner, jam packed full of  beautiful, gorgeous, literary tomes from Virago. They were just glorious with sumptuous jacket illustrations, many of them books that had been out of print and were now republished and amongst them was The Diary of a Provincial Lady.

I have loved this book for over 30 years and every time I read it, never fail to laugh and be charmed and cheered up by our diarist. Set in the inter-war years we never find out her name but she’s married to Robert and she has 2 children Vicky and Robin. They live in a Devon village where Robert is a land agent for the odious Lady Boxe.

Village life demands that one has to keep up appearances so along with juggling with the staff – governess, cook, gardener, etc. etc. she has to spend much of her time managing the finances, ’twas ever thus!

Okay this doesn’t compare with our lives today but there are some similarities, she may not do the school run thing but was forever receiving visitors, so the home had to be immaculate particularly for the wife of the vicar and the Boxe woman, who was not averse to point out any domestic mishaps in the home or garden. There is an ongoing joke about indoor bulbs that would not be out of place today and of course her daughter does the spoiler about the origin of the bulbs in front of Lady Boxe.

Our doughty diarist loves clothes and fripperies and in an effort to cope with her spending has many trips to the pawnbroker, as for Robert when he’s at home, he spends a lot of time hidden behind copies of The Times.

I fully admit nothing really happens and it’s all about the day to day routine of running a home but written with grace and humour and a very caustic wit.

Incidentally, I still have my original copy which I bought from the display spinner and it’s now much worse for wear, so inspired by this I’m going to buy the lovely edition that you see before you which includes a perfect introduction from Jilly Cooper and oh yes, all the books did sell from the spinner so feel I had a little contribution to the relaunch of these Virago Classics.


You can buy The Diary of a Provincial Lady right from Hive right here

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