Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Provincial Lady in Wartime, by E. M. Delafield, A Persephone Book

The Provincial Lady in Wartime is set at the beginning of WWII.  It is written in the form of a Journal or Diary, so has that stilted feel to sentence construction, the way one records events and little things in a diary. It's a record of a Provincial or maybe they should say Upper Class Provincial English lady of the era.

How will she comply to the blackout, making sure that all the windows are covered and not a chink is showing.  They must close a wing off, there's no need to keep it open with the children away at school.  The cook is protesting about the antiquated range she has to cook on, and aunt Blanche is going to descend on them from London as she can't possibly share a house with that impossible woman, who thinks she is thirty years younger and is helping in a canteen in London.

It is a witty account, of her endeavors to help in the war effort, travelling backwards and forwards from her house in Devon to London, working in the same canteen as aunt Blanche's friend.

I read this from the original American publication of this book and in the frontispiece it says events - that make up the life of an average British citizen in time of crisis ...  I beg to differ with this.  This book reflects the era it was written in, the type of person of a certain social station in life who would have the time to write and get her works published.  This does not negate the amusing chronicle of events unfolding in time of war and her eloquence of description.

Some quotes from the book on how bureaucracy works - Am struck not for the first time on how final arrangements never are final, but continue to lead on to still further activities until parallel with eternity suggest itself and brain in danger of reeling.

E. M. Delafield also refers to The Priory by Dorothy Whipple as a modern novel.

Remember my rating is within the First 100 Persephone Books and Persephone is already at the top of my list, but it does not stand the test in comparison.



  1. I've read this book and it is a case of how the other half lived! I also read Diary of a Provincial Lady and enjoyed them both. Some of her observations on life are really funny and true even now.

  2. That's interesting. I've read Diary of a Provincial Lady and that's made me laugh, but I haven't come across this one.

    A very happy new year to you!


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