The Way Things Are by E.M. Delafield

The Way Things Are by E.M. Delafield was first published in 1927, but my copy of the book is a Virago Modern Classic which was printed in 1988. It has an introduction by Nicola Beauman.

Prior to reading this book I had read the author’s ‘Provincial Lady’ books and really enjoyed them, this one is along the same lines really although I couldn’t help being reminded of the film Brief Encounter.

Laura is a 37 year old wife and mother, lucky enough to be living in a lovely large house (with garden of course.) I suppose she could be described as being upper middle class, and she is also a successful author. On the face of it she has it all, two healthy sons and an unobjectionable if reserved husband Alfred, but like most women of her class she is beset by that perennial problem – servants. Living deep in the countryside it isn’t the perfect location for servants so they tend not to last long there, or maybe it’s the two young boys Edward and Johnnie that people get fed up with. Laura favours her youngest son outrageously, apparently because he has curly hair and is the naughty one!!

Laura is constantly shattered if she has to deal with her own children even for a short time and dreads the inevitable exit of their Nurse. To be fair she does realise that the ‘women in the village’ have to deal with their children on their own and do all their own housework, instead of just having a life of tennis parties and visiting neighbours as she does.

When Laura’s younger sister Christine arrives to stay she has a young man in tow. Laura thinks it must be serious but it soon appears that Marmaduke Aylford is more interested in Laura and of course as a supposedly neglected wife she’s very flattered.

Having been married for seven years Laura thinks she has never really been in love, although she’s very fond of Alfred. She wants some romance in her life. Silly woman!

Anyway, this is funny in parts but not to the same extent as Delafield’s ‘Provincial Lady’ books.

As an acquaintance of mine once said, “Romance goes out the window as soon as you start washing their socks and pants.” Which was a bit shocking really as she had persuaded a man to leave his wife and three sons for her! Stick to fictional romance – it’s safer.

Tension by E.M. Delafield

Tension by E.M. Delafield was first published in 1920 but has just been reprinted by British Library. It has a preface by Lucy Evans and an afterword by Simon Thomas of Stuck in a Book.

Sir Julian Rossiter is the director of a small private college. His wife Lady Rossiter is a rather overbearing woman who seems to regard the teachers of the establishment to be somehow under her supervision. She’s forever poking her nose in where it isn’t wanted. When a new superintendent of shorthand and typing is employed at the college Lady Rossiter realises that it’s someone that a male relative of hers had been involved with in the past, and she doesn’t approve of Miss Marchrose at all. She feels that she treated her relative very badly.

But Miss Marchrose is very good at her job and popular with everyone at the college, especially with Mark Easter who is rather a favourite with Lady Rossiter. Frankly she’s jealous and decides to instigate a campaign to get rid of Miss Marchrose, dripping poison about her into the ears of the other teachers, one by one.

There’s no getting away from it, Edna, Lady Rossiter is a ghastly human being with no empathy for a woman who was in the same boat as she had been in the past, but marriage to Sir Julian had put all such thoughts out of her head, and had led to her developing a horrible sense of superiority.

However it isn’t just the women who had been in a similar situation. Three of the male characters had taken the plunge and had at some point proposed marriage just because they felt sorry for a woman. It isn’t a good basis for a successful marriage, but Sir Julian has perfected the art of withdrawing from marital life as much as possible – anything for a quite life! Lady Rossiter mentions that they never argue, not realising that that is proof of their estrangement. I must admit that I always shudder whenever people boast of never having had an argument with their spouse as it means that one of the couple is a doormat, or frightened to voice their own opinions – or they just don’t care enough to bother to communicate.

This makes the book sound a bit of a drag but it really isn’t, there’s quite a lot of humour in it, although not at the same level as Delafield’s Provincial Lady books. I particularly enjoyed the company of Mark’s two young children Ruthie and her younger brother Ambrose, known to Ruthie as Peekaboo. Ruthie does a lot of excited hopping on one leg, I could just see her doing it, and poor wee Ambrose – bossed around by Ruthie – is charming, sticky hands and all!

I was sent a copy of this book for review by British Library and as a fan of the Provincial Lady books I was very happy to do so. This was a very different read which was at times infuriating, but that just proves what a good writer Delafield was.

Bookshelf Travelling – November, 15th


This week’s Bookshelf Travelling (originally hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness) features the shelf above last week’s. Click on the photo to see it enlarged. I must admit that most of the books on this shelf aren’t mine, but I have read a few of the Primo Levi books and intend to read the rest of them. Another book that I have been meaning to read for years is Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. It’s on my Classics Club list. This copy is a 1975 paperback and I remember that Jack bought it new, not long before we got married. Those 1970s paperbacks were so tightly bound that they’re a real pain to read, especialy if like me you don’t like to crack the spine of a book, that’s why it has taken me so long to get around to it.

Surprisingly and for some unknown reason I have my copy of The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield on this shelf, it’s a really pretty Virago hardback, I loved this one when I read it some years ago.

I have no idea why the two Daphne du Maurier books are here instead of being with the other du Mauriers. Not After Midnight is a collection of five short stories and The Scapegoat was published in 1957 and this one is a first edition, sadly it doesn’t have its dustjacket.

Are you Bookshelf Travelling this week? I’ve dropped the ‘in Insane Times’ part as I’m trying to be optimistic and hoping that things won’t be quite as crazy as they have been this year – in the not too distant future.

Other travellers this week are:

A Son of the Rock

Bitter Tea and Mystery

Staircase Wit

The 1930 Club


I’m taking part in The 1930 Club which is hosted by Simon of Stuck in a Book and Karen of Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings and so I’m reading Angel Pavement by J.B. Priestley which is 613 pages long so I doubt if I’ll be reading any others. I’ve been busy with visitors until now so I’ll be glad to immerse myself in reading this week.

As it happens I’ve read a lot of books that were published in 1930 in the past and the links will take you to the ones I’ve previously blogged about.

Alice and Thomas and Jane by Enid Bagnold

Not So Quiet by Helen Zenna Smith

The Weatherhouse by Nan Shepherd

After Leaving Mr Mackenzie by Jean Rhys

Miss Mole by E.H. Young

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop by Gladys Mitchell

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

Morning Tide by Neil M. Gunn

The Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham

The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield

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

Recent Book Purchases

Recent Book Purchases

On our recent road trip down to England I bought quite a few books – surprise surprise I hear you say.

1. Film-Lovers’ Annual – 1934
2. The Derbyshire Dales by Norman Price
3. The Better Part by Annie S. Swan
4. Traitor’s Purse by Margery Allingham
5. Murder Among Friends by Elizabeth Ferrars
6. Love Among the Ruins by Angela Thirkell
7. The Provincial Lady In America by E.M. Delafield
8. Appointment with Venus by Jerrard Tickell
9. Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor
10. Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

I’m only sorry that I didn’t buy even more books as I saw two old Batsford travel books and I actually thought I had bought one Batsfprd book but I’ve just realised that the Derbyshire Dales book was actually published by Warne. I’m now regretting not buying Batsford’s England and Scottish Borders. Oh well, hopefully they’ll turn up at another time and place.

I bought the Dean’s Film-Lovers Annual from 1934 for the photos in it, some of very famous film stars such as Bogart and Edward G. Robinson and an awful lot that I had never heard of so I’ll be googling them. There are interesting photos of film sets too and a photo of Harold Lloyd’s sitting-room showing bookcases full of books. I’d love to be able to see what they are.

The Provincial Lady in Wartime by E.M. Delafield

I didn’t even realise that this book existed before I spotted it at the St Andrew’s and St George’s Edinburgh booksale. I really like the previous two books which I’ve read by E.M. Delafield, so I snapped this one up. My copy is an old one from 1940 but I believe this book has been reprinted fairly recently.

It’s the beginning of the war, the time when nothing much was happening so it was called ‘the phoney war’. Everyone seems to have been desperate to get into some kind of war work, to ‘do their bit’, and the Provincial Lady was no different. This is a commom theme in early Second World War era novels, whether the author is someone like Angela Thirkell or Evelyn Waugh.

Lots of people must have seen the whole thing as a way of getting out of their particular rut and making their life more exciting. For some of them it probably became too exciting but there’s no doubt that for loads of people it was the best experience of their lives and peacetime, when it eventually came was an anti climax.

Anyway, the Provincial Lady has abandoned home and hearth with her husband’s blessing and is in London looking for war work which will help in the war effort. But so far there is nothing for anyone to do, she pulls strings and has meetings with various government types but the best she can manage is a job in a canteen, making tea for people who are practising first aid and air raid duties.

She has to make her way back to her Devon home to sort out domestic problems (you can’t get the staff, you know). Evacuees and rumours are the staple and everyone seems to think that the German people are going to revolt and get rid of Hitler, another war is unthinkable to some, especially those who lost sons in the First World War, which seems so recent to them.

Yes, so far so deja vu-ish, I hear you say, but there’s plenty of humour too, as you would expect from the Provincial Lady, and my copy is illustrated with drawings of scenes and characters from the book.

Obviously writing a book like this was Delafield ‘doing her bit’ as books like this one must have been a real comfort to people in wartime.

I always feel a bit shuddery when reading books like this one though as at this time there had been no actual air raids and so no civilian casualties, or even military ones. By the time the book was published in 1940 the readers must have been quite nostalgic for that strange time in 1939 when hostilities hadn’t begun yet. It’s just as well they didn’t know what was in store for them.

Book Sale at St Andrew’s and St George’s Edinburgh

We got up early on Saturday morning so that we wouldn’t be too late in getting to the book sale in St Andrew’s and St George’s Church in Edinburgh, the proceeds all go to Christian Aid. It was Linda from Edinburgh who reminded me of the sale, so a big thank you to Linda!

St Andrew's & St George's Church
By the time we got to the church it was really chucking it down with rain and the books outside the church all had plastic covers over them and everbody had packed into the church – it was heaving with folks and it made it very difficult to see the books, but I persevered, and we went our separate ways. I ran out of money, had to find Jack, found him in the crowd, waved madly, he didn’t see me, he went in the opposite direction, the woman at the stall seemed to think I was going to nick her books, but in the end it was all sorted out and the upshot was I spent a lot of money and Jack didn’t spend nearly as much, that’s usually the way of it. As you can see from the photo above, by the time we got upstairs the rain had stopped and the crowd had thinned.

I couldn’t resist taking this photo of the newly redecorated church, it has had a lot spent on it recently and the organ has been refurbished.
St Andrew's & St George's Edinburgh

It was the ceiling which really attracted me though, beautiful, but I’m glad I didn’t have to paint it. Internally the church is really lovely with pale wood, maybe golden oak and the pews all have blue velvet buttoned cushions, I’m sure in my young day that would have been seen as being un-Presbyterian and just too comfy for church-goers. How times
St Andrew's & St George'sChurch Edinburgh

Anyway, to the books, here they are.


The three in the middle are:
The House That Is Our Own by O. Douglas
The Provincial Lady in Wartime by E.M. Delafield
Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford. I’ve read it, but it was over 30 years ago I’m sure and was a library book.I want to read it again.

The other one which can’t be seen very well is:
We Are Still Married by Garrison Keillor. I’ve never read anything by him but I enjoy listening to him on Radio 4 extra on Sunday afternoons whilst cooking the dinner.

Two of the vintage crime Penguins I haven’t even heard of.

The Content Assignment by Holly Roth
Comes the Blind Fury by Douglas Rutherford

The third Penguin is Captain Cut-Throat by John Dickson Carr.

The Things We See is a Penguin book which just screams 1950s at you and is about design. It has some lovely photos and even the endpapers are 1950s design.

Civil To Strangers by Barbara Pym. I’ve read quite a lot of her books but most of them so long ago, I can’t remember if I’ve read this one or not. If so, it’s due a re-read.

Anna Buchan and O.Douglas by Wendy Forrester is a book which I’ve been looking for.

The Prince and the Pilgrim by Mary Stewart is one I’ve been meaning to buy for ages, it’s the last in her Merlin/Arthur series and I’m going to read it for the up and coming Mary Stewart readalong at Gudrun’s Tights.

Oasis of the North by Dawn MacLeod is about Inverewe Gardens in the north west of Scotland.

Scottish Highland Watercolours by Sutton Palmer is a collection of 16 watercolours of the Highlands, all very scenic.

I could have bought a lot more books and this week I’ve been restraining myself from getting on a bus and going back for another look because I really didn’t get a chance to look at the many gardening and craft books which were on sale. But I think I’ll be good and resist the temptaion, particularly as there is another library book sale locally on Saturday. The George Street, Edinburgh book sale continues until the end of the week.

The Provincial Lady Goes Further by E.M. Delafield

I bought this 1942 edition of the book in the Callander bookshop which according to Carolyn is called King’s Bookshop. We didn’t manage to get back over that way during the summer holidays which are now at an end. How can six weeks flash past so quickly?

Anyway, this one is also written in diary form and I always find books like that very quick reads. As the title says it’s more or less the further adventures of the provincial lady but now she has some money due to the success of her previous publication. As often happens, instead of the money being used to solve the family money problems and placate the bank manager, it’s used to rent and furnish a flat in London. The bank manager is not amused but Robert, her husband is so laid back about everything and he seems to be quite confident that his wife will be able to keep earning more money through her writing. The PL thinks that Robert isn’t really interested in anything – she could be right about that.

Both children are packed off to boarding school leaving the Provincial Lady free to gallivant around London and meet up with her friends there. Pamela Pringle is very ‘fast’ and is on her fourth surname since the PL first met her as a young woman. Pamela is well on her way to her third divorce and is using our PL as her alibi whilst pursuing and being pursued by hordes of young men. All very daring for 1932, which is when this book was first published!

The Provincial Lady is still having problems finding servants for her house as it’s situated in the country and servants don’t want to live out in the Sticks. It’s a look into a time when you went to Boots the Chemist to change your library books, never went out without a hat and had your shoes re-covered to match your evening dress.

She’s still getting herself into plenty of amusing scrapes and the usual sort of trouble with the children when they’re not at school.

I’m looking forward to reading more books by E.M. Delafield as they’re a good laugh, and as I’m getting to the stage where I’m sometimes wary of switching on the news because it seems that there is no good news nowadays, and a good laugh is often sorely needed!

A Book Buying Weekend

I know I’m supposed to be on a book buying ban until I make a big dent in my TBR pile, but when I went into that bookshop in Callander on Saturday I came across an old copy of an E.M. Delafield so of course the ban went straight out of the window. I didn’t even know that there was a sequel to The Diary of a Provincial Lady, but there is and I have it – The Provincial Lady Goes Further. It was first published in 1932 but mine is a 1942 reprint and it has nice clear print. The chap in the bookshop (see photo on previous post) thought that he had THREE books by Angela Thirkell, then he discovered that they had been sold. What a disappointment!

On Sunday I went to a branch of The Works. I was looking for Mary Stewart’s The Ivy Tree but they didn’t have it. They had The Gabriel Hounds but I read that one years ago so I didn’t bother buying it. I’m feeling quite virtuous about that.

Green Darkness cover
The Secrets of the Chess Machine cover

However, not very virtuous because they did have a copy of Green Darkness by Anya Seton and I bought that. I’m fairly sure that I haven’t read that one. I did read and enjoy Katherine – way back in the year dot, and I know I can borrow that one from my local library if I want to read it again. Green Darkness was first published in 1972 so I don’t know how I missed it.

I also bought The Secrets of the Chess Machine by Robert Lohr, a German author, and it’s based on the true story of a legendary invention. It’s set in Vienna in 1770. I like silhouettes so I was attracted by the cover of this book, also the fact that it had a 49p sticker on it! Well if it turns out to be a duffer I haven’t wasted much money.

My husband bought The Infinities by John Banville and Songs of the Dying Earth which is edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. It’s a book of short stories by various science fiction writers in honour of Jack Vance.

And a book which we’ll both read is Maritime Scotland by Brian Lavery. This isn’t the cover of the one which we bought, ours has lovely sailing ships and a very grand looking building on it, unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any mention of the painting which was used for the cover either.
Maritime Scotland  cover
That is how the TBR pile grows faster than I can read them! Has anyone read any of these books?