The Provincial Lady in America by E.M. Delafield

The Provincial Lady in America by E.M. Delafield was first published in 1934 but my copy wasn’t published until 1939. It was published in paperback in 2005.

I read and really enjoyed Delafield’s other Provincial Lady books and liked this one too, although it might not have been quite as amusing as the others.

The Provincial Lady is invited to America to do a book tour, giving lectures in various American and Canadian cities. This comes as a great surprise to her because when her publishers suggested a tour she gave them a list of stipulations as to financial requirements and substantial advances. She’s quite shocked that they have agreed to all of her wishes.

After lots of preparations and a week long voyage on the S.S. Statendam she sails into New York and so begins a busy schedule where she meets plenty of odd characters, almost as odd as the ones she comes across in England!

It’s 1933 and if you know your America you’ll realise that that means The Chicago World Fair, a must visit obviously. Empire Exhibitions and World Fairs are a couple of Jack’s interests so even he liked the bits about the exhibits she had visited. She described the postcards that she bought there and Jack has most of them in his collection. Another place she’s determined to visit is Alcott House in Concord (have any of you been there?). Everyone tells her that Boston is exactly like England but she has never felt cold like it.

She’s swaddled in American hospitality and has a wonderful time shopping for gifts for everyone back home. The result is of course that she has a terrible problem with her luggage. She has piles of books to take back home, and everyone advises her to get a strap for them. I think that’s something particularly American. Anyway, her luggage problems are as nothing compared with being over-booked and over-bagged when you turn up at an airport nowadays. I wonder if there are any liners ploughing backwards and forwards across the Atlantic now? It’s tempting to travel that way if only so that there would be no strict baggage allowance.

Her Provincial Lady books are very autobiographical, and at one point she mentions that it’s very strange to be in a country where there isn’t a huge imbalance of women (or words to that effect). It must have been weird to live in a society with far fewer men around than there should have been, due to World War 1.

I started reading this one after I had given up reading Hilary Mantell’s Beyond Black, as after the incidents in Paris I just didn’t feel up to reading something which wasn’t light hearted. Have any of you read Beyond Black? The Provincial Lady in America was just perfect light reading.

Below is an image of the ship which she supposedly sailed to America in.

S.S. Statendam

14 thoughts on “The Provincial Lady in America by E.M. Delafield

  1. I haven’t read anything by H. Mantel, though so many people have raved about her books (or perhaps because so many people have raved about her books).

    I lived in Massachusetts for two years, but never made it to the Alcott house – and I kick myself about that now. I also lived close to the Norman Rockwell museum and missed that as well.

    • Lisa,
      I’ve only read Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, which are quite different from her earlier books I think, very good though some people didn’t like the writing style.
      It’s always the way of it that you never get around to visiting the touristy places you live near. We used to live 20 minutes on the train from London (for a couple of years) and only went there once.

    • tracybham,
      They are very quick reads and really quite amusing. E.M. Delafield had a very close relationship with the crime writer Anthony Berkeley and she is mentioned a lot in Martin Edwards’ book The Golden Age of Murder.

  2. Haven’t cruised on the Statendam yet, but we’re on the Zaandam for the holidays and we’ve been on 6 other ‘dam ships with Holland America…and yes, there are luggage allowances there as well (unless you are a 1%-er, perhaps…) Lovely ships.

    • Pearl,
      I must look into what’s available cruise wise from here. It does seem like a more relaxing way of travelling and seeing places. I imagine the luggage allowance isn’t as meagre as when you are flying, but I suppose it might be.

      • We’re doing one next summer (also on HAL – ms Zuiderdam) that starts in Copenhagen, up round Norway then around the north of Scotland with a few stops in Scotland before docking back in Copenhagen.

        We’re also looking at one for 2017 that starts in Amsterdam, goes up the coast of Norway, makes a couple of UK stops then on to Iceland and Greenland, with a stop in Nova Scotia before terminating in Boston. That one might be right up your street!

        • Pearl,
          I was just thinking that myself! I really must look into those cruises. I’d love to go back to Norway. But we could easily visit my brother in Holland and go on a cruise starting in Amsterdam. I’d want to spend more than a few days in the US though.

  3. I’ve been to the Alcott homes in Concord, MA, as well as Walden Pond and Emerson’s homes. There was a lot of literary action in and around Concord in the 1800s and Massachusetts has many other literary sites.
    We have one of the fastest and most beautiful ocean liners here in Philadelphia, rotting away at her berth. The S.S. United States ( is the country’s flagship, but the government can’t find any money in the $125 billion they wasted in improper payments in 2014 to restore her (and provide jobs for a waning boat building industry). They’d rather waste money than restore a living piece of history.

    • Joan,
      I felt sure that you would have been to Alcott House but didn’t realise there were other literary places of interest to visit in that area.
      If only we could be in charge of things! Think of all the youngsters who could be set on a career path by being taught various apprenticeships involved in re-fitting and overhauling ships.

  4. I’ve read only the first Provincial Lady which I liked very much, but haven’t ventured further in the series.

    I liked the comment in your review about the Provincial Lady’s finding Boston to be very cold, and not like England in that respect. I grew up in Maine, but when I was visiting graduate programs, I visited one in Boston in January, and I remember thinking, I think I might be done with this climate! I coincidentally ended up going somewhere more southern – not a place without winter, but a little less frigid!

    My aunt and uncle have been on a transatlantic cruise. I may be wrong, but I feel like it was less expensive than some of their other cruises, because there are less ports that they stop in, or something.

    • Christy,
      I think we in the UK often think it’s very cold here but I know some people who went to Canada to live but ended up coming back because they couldn’t stand the winters there. Mind you with our winds in Scotland it often feels like they’re blowing right through your bones.
      I would really consider a transatlantic cruise if you could stop off for a month or so and get on another ship after that to go back home. I’ll have to do some research.

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