Chapter 342 The Solace of Good Books, Or, The Provincial Lady

On my autumn reading list was the book The Road to Monticello, by Kevin J. Hayes., I got this book in September and put it away for autumn evenings when the weather would be cool, the night would come early, and I would want to learn something new about one of our most interesting presidents, Thomas Jefferson. Given all of the tumult around here in the past few months combined with the busy activities of the holidays, I just didn’t feel like reading about Thomas Jefferson. I had neither the time nor the energy for reading an academic tome like this one. I think Jefferson was great, but I just needed a book I could read in snippets — at the doctor’s office, in the carpool line, during Tom’s basketball practice, while cooking dinners, and — yes — even after two funerals. I needed something light that could help cheer me up.

I was lucky enough to have found the perfect book.

Shakespeare? Tolstoy? More Laura Ingalls Wilder? Dante?

No. None of the above.

Thanks to another book I own, Jane Brocket’s The Gentle Art of Domesticity, I discovered Persephone Books.

According to their website, British-based Persephone Books “prints mainly neglected fiction and non-fiction by women, for women and about women. The titles are chosen to appeal to busy women who rarely have time to spend in ever-larger bookshops and who would like to have access to a list of books designed to be neither too literary nor too commercial. The books are guaranteed to be readable, thought-provoking and impossible to forget. We sell mainly through mail order, through selected shops and we have our own shops.”

After reading Persephone’s rather detailed and quite entertaining catalogue, I decided to track down the books of one of their featured authors: E.M. Delafield.

From Wikipedia: “Edmée Elizabeth Monica Dashwood, née de la Pasture (9 June 1890 – 2 December 1943), commonly known as E. M. Delafield, was a prolific author who is best-known for her largely autobiographical Diary of a Provincial Lady, which took the form of a journal of the life of an upper-middle class Englishwoman living mostly in a Devon village of the 1930s, and its sequels in which the Provincial Lady buys a flat in London and travels to America. Other sequels of note are her experiences looking for war-work during the Phoney War in 1939, and her experiences as a tourist in the Soviet Union.”

I tracked down Diary of a Provincial Lady stateside and ordered a copy. The kind bookseller generously threw in a copy of Delafield’s sequel, The Provincial Lady in London, free of charge. I was cheered by that friendly gesture even before I opened the book’s cover. While the (thinly-veiled) fictional diary of a British housewife who becomes a published author might not seem appealing subject material for everyone, the wit and humor with which this book is written has universal appeal. I frequently laughed aloud as I read the first book, and it was the kind of book I was sad to see end.

I’ll share some of my favorite funny excerpts from the books tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ve now burned through The Diary of a Provincial Lady, The Provincial Lady in London, and The Provincial Lady in America, and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of The Provincial Lady in Wartime in the mail. I also have I Visit the Soviets (titled The Provincial Lady in Russia in the U.S.) for future reading. I visited the then-Soviet Union in 1990 as a college exchange student, and I look forward to comparing Delafield’s view of her visit there with my own.

There is solace in good books. I’m ready and re-energized now. I look forward to re-connecting with Thomas Jefferson before winter’s end.


Filed under Book Finds

5 responses to “Chapter 342 The Solace of Good Books, Or, The Provincial Lady

  1. then-Soviet Union in 1990…
    I hate to rain on your parade abut your history is out of date.

    The Soviet Union broke up in 1989. In 1990 the former Soviet states became the Unified states.

    In the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the sports team was from the Unified States. (CIS)

    By the time the 1996 Atlanta Olympics rolled around, each of the states had become an independent country.

    I hope your back is doing ok now.

  2. Historia,

    I can only tell you what I saw and experienced, as I haven’t got time to research all of the facts at this very moment. When I visited Russia and Ukraine in early 1990, it was still the USSR. The red and yellow USSR hammer and sickle flag was flown everywhere and most of my travel documents/passport state “USSR” or the Cyrillic “CCCP”. While it is true that the Berlin wall came down in November of 1989, pretty much signaling Eastern European Communism’s demise to the rest of the world, my understanding has always been that the Belavezha Accords, signed by the presidents of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia in December of 1991, officially declared the Soviet Union dissolved and established the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in its place.

    I was merely writing a comment about the author’s 1930s visit to the definitely then-Soviet Union and comparing it to my own visit. The citizens of the areas I visited (Moscow, Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), and various parts of Ukraine) certainly considered themselves citizens of the USSR at the time I was there.

    My apologies if I’ve got it wrong.

  3. I’m the one who should apologise. I was wrong – sorry.

    EARLY 1990 – the Berlin wall came down in late 1989. Now that I think about it – Russia did not become the Unified states – until 1991.

  4. No worries. The older I get the harder it is to remember such things!

  5. Pingback: Chapter 443 Let’s See if I Can Do This Without Interruption, Or, Why I May Move My Office to an “Undisclosed Location” « Book Hunter’s Holiday

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