A Glimpse of Life
E.M. Delafield – The Diary of a Provincial Lady

Other books read by this author: –

April 5th – Read amusing book today. Could identify with main character a lot. Surprising, given fact that it takes place 80 years before and I’m neither mother, housewife, nor living in the province. Still, heroine’s observations and honesty made me relate to her on another level. When confronted, heroine chooses to keep up with conventions, while her masterfully satirical perception suggest her ability to see ludicrous side of certain customs. (Query: do all seemingly traditional people secretly want to walk out of step and narrate their genuine feelings in diary?) Have also found myself in situations where I was desperate to break the script, but for want of good rebuttal decided to grin and bear it. Later, in shower or staring at ceiling while waiting for sleep, multiple repartees will flash through mind. Too little, too late.  

On one hand, diary paints picture of life for upper-middle-class that is hard for modern day reader to relate. Most households do not keep multiple servants on one income salary, and idea of being completely at mercy of your cook seems baffling. On other hand, the struggle to make ends meet, while keeping up appearances, will read as true today as it was when it was written. 

“(Query here becomes unavoidable: Does not a misplaced optimism exist, common to all mankind, leading on to false conviction that social engagements, if dated sufficiently far ahead, will never really materialize?)” – p. 19

Book shows a year of diary-entries of said provincial lady. Follows her life navigating husband, two children, household staff and her friends and acquaintances in small village. Describes life in all its simple complexity. For example, heroine tries to be a ‘modern detached mother’, while secretly crying her eyes out when bringing son back to school. Or tries to find perfect timing to tell husband that the cat, obtained against his veto, has had another litter of kittens. 

Writing style is unpretentious, yet unnervingly talented. Though sentences are short and to the point, the writer creates lively characters that will resonate with most readers. She captures the true essence of the heroine’s children, husband and governess. 

Can only hope to ever be able to write this cleverly. Beyond belief that this book is not a more well-known classic competing for a place on our bookshelves. Must really start recommending book to others. 

(Note: Book might not up to standard for genuine literary crowd, so need to remember to keep affection for this novel on down-low when in company of distinguished literary friends, so as to avert embarrassment.)

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