As my library is consistently failing to have anything at all I want to read, I’m being forced to turn to unread books on my shelves. This is obviously a good thing. Perfume was one and next I picked The Way Things Are by E M Delafield. This was published in 1927 and so predates The Provincial Lady: it shows.
The heroine, Laura, is ‘happily married’ to Alfred and lives in the country with not enough money and a permanent servant problem. Alfred, like many husbands, was of a taciturn disposition. Sound familiar? A million women have lost husbands and fiancés in the First World War or will never marry because of the shortage of men. Laura has a comfortable home, a kindly husband and two little boys. Does she thank heaven, fasting? Does she ever. The foolish woman falls in love with a man who has no right (she sa striktly) to declare his love for her. The moral dilemma this poses takes up most of the book in a rambling way.
I really couldn’t take to Laura (or to any woman who is exhausted if she has to look after her own children for just one day now and again) and found it very hard to believe that she supplements the family income by writing short stories which are well thought of. For one thing, she is so colourless and for another she doesn’t write anything at all in the whole course of the book except letters or notes to the butcher. Luckily she has a younger, nicer and much more sensible sister, who livens up the book no end.
Laura’s problems are those of The Provincial Lady or Dandy Gilver (in Catriona McPherson’s series): a rather dull husband, tiresome neighbours, a general feeling of dissatisfaction with a stultifying life. The difference is that The Provincial Lady laughs at herself and Dandy Gilver finds something interesting to do. Verdict: don’t bother.