Shades Of Words

The Diary of a Provincial Lady


It takes a truly talented mind to take the day to day life of a country house wife and convert it into a journal of light satire and human observation. It is a little wonder why The Diary..was a bestseller when it was published in 1933 and why the reprints are still so popular.

To be honest, when I got through the first fifty pages or so, I wasn’t entirely impressed – it did seem like a 30s chick lit. Breezy, funny and a little bitchy. Its only when I started paying attention to the little notes to self in every other “diary entry”  that I realized the depth of the book.

Here is one of my favorite parts

“ situation being what it is, and moreover rapidly approaching when great aunt’s diamond ring must either be redeemed or relinquished forever, there is nothing for it but to approach the Bank on subject of overdraft.

Am never much exhilarated at this prospect, and do not in the least find that it becomes less unpleasant with repetition, but rather the contrary. Experience customary difficulty in getting to the point, and Bank Manager and I discuss weather, political situation, and probably Starters for the Grand National with passionate suavity for some time. Inevitable pause occurs, and we look at one another immense expanse of pink blotting paper. Irrelevant impulse rises in me to ask if he has other supply, for use, in writing table drawer, or if fresh pad is brought in whenever a client calls. (Strange divagations of the human brain under the stress of extreme nervousness presents itself here as interesting topic for speculation….”

Don’t we all let our minds wander during conversations to ask such questions to self? And how can you not laugh out loud when you read something like this??!!

As the novel in the form of someone’s personal journal, the writing style is highly informal and in some cases quite ungrammatical. Sometimes that can be a tad annoying, but keep reminding yourself that you are reading someone’s thoughts and they are not going to be structured. ( And to write a book this way is quite remarkable, in itself!)

The book truly is delightful and full of interesting characters. There is Lady B, the ostentatious, snobby and condescending neighbor, the talkative but sincere Vicar’s wife, glamorous Rose and the theatrical Madamoiselle. Yes, most of the interesting characters are female, as they clearly reflect the sphere of interaction of an English country lady.

Then there is our protagonist – the provincial lady herself. Though she is clearly an intelligent person, she is often fraught with spasms of inferiority as she compares her lives to people richer than her. She is devoted to her children and household, but often, aspires for the single and glamorous life of her friend Rose. She is far from perfect, but what makes her truly interesting, is that she handles all the drama in her life with wit and a pinch of salt.

My mother has been a housewife all along, and though it wasn’t in the British countryside, her problems are pretty much the same. Dealing with domestic help, financial issues and trying to run the house in the budget, unexpected guests and working for community clubs. If I told my mother to read this book , she would say – this is my life! Maybe I should contemplate writing – “Diary of an Indian Housewife” – but am sure even if I had all the material I wouldn’t have half the wit.

Although not in the same league of Elizabeth Gaskell whose satire on country life makes for brilliant prose, Delafield’s narrative is contemporary and close to the heart. I would not say this is for everyone, but if you read early 20th century British fiction you would enjoy this.

Trivia: Delafield was the pen name for E.M Dashwood who herself was a prolific contributor to the Time and Tide publication mentioned several times in this book



Author: Vipula

Before talking about who we are, we’d like to tell you a bit about how and why Shades of Words came into being. It all started with the idea of “A place where we could share with likeminded people about things we enjoy. From books to music to movies to travel; Shades of Words was to be a place about the best of our experiences” We thought about why should anyone read us? The answer was that whatever we review would be a mix of our experience of the thing along with interesting and useful information about it. So in case you are reading us regularly or even checking us out once in a while then we have succeeded in our efforts someway somewhere. Who are we? Known as Kapil Sood and Vipula Gupta, we thought of Shades of Words on one fine Sunday afternoon. Tired of writing interesting RFP’s and project documentation; we decided to give this a shot. Yes! We work in Indian IT industry. Cupid struck us while were innocently slogging together on the highly intricate job of formatting and beautifying documents! And since then, we have been working together to establish Shades of Words as a place that we can claim as ours. (Because buying a house is still years away!) What else? Kapil also writes some blogs which you can read here and here.

6 thoughts on “The Diary of a Provincial Lady

  1. How right you are! I had just started reading the review, my reaction was exactly the same as mentioned by you in a para in the review.When I saw that reference, it was like-Oh my God! How well she knows me? And why not? After all a daughter is supposed to be her mother’s reflection and soulmate. I must read this book.

  2. @mom – yes you are quite right about how much its like your life – you must read it..though I am not sure if you will find it in India. I believe an online copy can be found. You must take a stab at writing too – you can be pretty funny when you want to

  3. You capture the feel of this book so well–I really must read this one again! I am wondering if the sequels are half as funny–I think I have the one set in London. And I think the fact that we all know exactly what she writes about (though our situations may be different)–the little quirks about social interactions–she is spot on which makes it so much more amusing.

  4. Danielle – Thanks for dropping by ! I did the “look inside” in Amazon for Lady in London and it was as funny as this…I am actually planning to read it soon. Just taking a break to read something different and will then come back to it – ( probably sooner than desired because of this horribly gloomy winter weather – am in the midwest and its all ice and snow 😦 )

  5. This is yet another feather in your caps V!! 🙂 Your review makes me want to buy this book in an instance. That conversation on banking that you put reminds me of so many things back home…These situations apply not just to a home-maker but also to a working woman. Your review just reminds me of all the things I do back home.

    I think I’ll buy this book…can’t be bothered to book in NYPL..they take forever to get an old book much less a new one. Can you let me know what sequels would you recommend.

  6. @Zoya – Thanks yaar ! It is a lovely book – though I wont say a “must-buy” but yes def. very enjoyable. I havent read any of the sequels..but did a preview in Amazon and it appeared to be pretty entertaining!!

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