** The Provincial Lady in Wartime, by E. M. Delafield, A Persephone Book

The Provincial Lady in Wartime is set at the beginning of WWII.  It is written in the form of a Journal or Diary, so has that stilted feel to sentence construction, the way one records events and little things in a diary. It’s a record of a Provincial or maybe they should say Upper Class Provincial English lady of the era.

How will she comply to the blackout, making sure that all the windows are covered and not a chink is showing.  They must close a wing off, there’s no need to keep it open with the children away at school.  The cook is protesting about the antiquated range she has to cook on, and aunt Blanche is going to descend on them from London as she can’t possibly share a house with that impossible woman, who thinks she is thirty years younger and is helping in a canteen in London.

It is a witty account, of her endeavors to help in the war effort, travelling backwards and forwards from her house in Devon to London, working in the same canteen as aunt Blanche’s friend.

I read this from the original American publication of this book and in the frontispiece it says events – that make up the life of an average British citizen in time of crisis …  I beg to differ with this.  This book reflects the era it was written in, the type of person of a certain social station in life who would have the time to write and get her works published.  This does not negate the amusing chronicle of events unfolding in time of war and her eloquence of description.

Some quotes from the book on how bureaucracy works – Am struck not for the first time on how final arrangements never are final, but continue to lead on to still further activities until parallel with eternity suggest itself and brain in danger of reeling.

E. M. Delafield also refers to The Priory by Dorothy Whipple as a modern novel.

What is my rating on this Persephone Book Two Stars **

Remember my rating is within the First 100 Persephone Books and Persephone is already at the top of my list, but it does not stand the test in comparison.



***** The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield a Persephone Book

I’ve started on the Provincial Lady in Wartime, but as soon as I began reading The Home-Maker, I’m afraid I ditched the former book.

The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield is one of Persephone’s American author choices. Set in 1920’s mid town USA, in a town not too near other towns.  We come to know the Knapp family.  Lester the father, Evangeline the mother, Helen 13, Henry about 10 and little Steven about four.

Lester works at the only department store in town.  Old Mr. Willing’s has died and now his nephew has taken the reins.  He is young in his thirties and wants to move the department store into the 20th century.

Lester quite college to marry Eva, taking a job in the accounting office at the department store, he loathes his job.  Eva went straight into being a house-wife; these were the expected norms of the time.

Eva is efficient her house is a bandbox, dinner is delicious, at the stroke of the hour.  But everyone seems to suffer from stomach problems.  Although on a limited budget she can make anything out of an old discarded piece of clothing, she has style and the eye for it.

Lester had come home to dinner and has told them that he has been passed over yet again for a promotion.  As she says:  There never would be anything else for her, never, never!  But is was Bitter!  She looked wicked.  She felt wicked.  But she did not want to be wicked.  She wanted to be a good Christian woman.  she wanted to do her duty.

Eva was at constant war with Stephen they butted heads all the time.  As Lester left the house after another confrontation was in the works he thinks.  The opinion of a man who couldn’t make money was of no value, on any subject, in any body’s eyes.

One day he goes into work and is told that he is to be let go.  On leaving work he’s in a daze, he’d be better off dead to his family at least they’d have the insurance money.  His neighbor’s chimney is on fire, he rushes up and falls off the roof.  He is taken home paralyzed.

You must read this book to see how it all works out.

Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book.

Evangeline held the suit up, looking at it and thinking gratefully how it would help some woman through a difficult year in her life.  She remembered suddenly the Mrs. Warner who had so pathetically longed for that bright green sports sweater.  This would satisfy her wistful, natural longing for pretty things and yet be quite suitable for her age.  Evangeline had so much sympathy for women struggling with the problem of dressing themselves properly at difficult ages!

So relate to that.

The two were silent father and son.  Lester said to himself, shivering, “What a ghastly thing to have sensitive, helpless human beings absolutely in the power of other human beings!  Absolute, unquestioned power!  Nobody can stand that.  It’s cold poison.  How many wardens of prisons are driven sadistically mad with it!

Another quote:

“He that is down need fear no fall, 
He that is low, no pride,”
said Lester Knapp aloud to himself.  It was a great pleasure to him to be be able to say the strong short Saxon words aloud.
This reminds me of Winston Churchill’s writings:
Used to rally his countrymen and the English-speaking peoples in the dark days of the Battle of Britain. The best remembered words sound like this:

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

We shall not flag or fail. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

The words Churchill used are overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon, the old short words he thought best of all. 

She came to feel that talking to Father, when they were alone together, was almost like thinking aloud, only better, because there was somebody to help you figure things out when you got yourself all balled up.  Before this Helen had spent a great deal of time trying to figuring things out by herself, and getting so tangled that she didn’t know where she had begun or how to stop the wild whirl racing around in her head.  But now, with father to hang on to, she could unravel those twisted skeins of thought and wind them into balls where she could get at them

I had so many more quotes referred to in my notes but I think I would over whelm you, so will stop here.  Do read the book.

I’ve been thinking that after I’ve read all 100 Persephone books, I would somehow like to list them by preference, but one to one-hundred would be too complicated, so I came up with the idea of 5 categories.  So the 5 Star Rating would go to the top twenty books and so on down the line to 1 Star.

Of course this is just within the Persephone Books which I already consider at the best end of a good read.

5 Stars *****


***** Good Things In England, by Florence White, A Persephone Book

The Tradition of the British Savoury Pie.

This is a butchers shop in Southwold a traditional English seaside town on the Suffolk coast.  The reason I wanted to feature this was to show some of the wonderful Savoury Pies that have a long British history.  I’m sure they’re very popular at the seaside, to pick up a pie, with some tomatoes and salad, there you have a take out al fresco picnic.

Meat pie and mushy peas is traditional grub fare.

When I was at Persephone books in London I bought one book and it was Good Things In England, by Florence White.

Originally published in 1932 it says:

A Practical Cookery Book For Everyday Use
Containing Traditional and
Regional Recipes suited to
Modern Tastes contributed by
English Men and Women between
1399 and 1932 and edited by
Florence White
I think Americans would like this book as it has all USA measurements and makes some wonderful 1932 comparisons of cooking culture.  For instance she says:
In a new and vast country far from Europe they have been able to preserve the integrity of their own kitchen far better than we have, and to develop it on individual lines.  If we want to learn to improve our own cookery – and we should want to do this – it is to American we should turn, not to France.
She also writes:
We can learn from the Commonwealth countries.  They have the same advantage as America of developing the cookery of the Homeland in a new setting.

Florence White says a whole book should be written on The Pies of Old England.  To be sure though the heritage of the local savoury pie has a long history in the UK.  I will share one recipe with you from Bungay, Suffolk; which seems appropriate:
I would give this Persephone Book a Five Star rating *****

NANOWRIMO National Novel Writing Month, 1st to 30th November

nanowrimo  What is nanowrimo, you may well ask.  I was in my library last week and saw that they had a writers meeting every Monday evening through out the month of November, I attended, having not any idea what the itinerary or format was.  But as I have always been interested in writing I thought that I would go.

After sitting there with one other person for a while, he worked at the library and had started doing some writing before, in comes another person.  Eventually our fearless leader appeared somewhat late, well half and hour late.  She did begin to explain why we were all meeting through out the month of November.  Eventually there were seven people there including myself.  One other person was in the same position as me not having a clue as to what it was about, but he was ahead of me because he had started a novel.

Well it seems that during the month of November one aims to write 50,000 words, that is an average of 1,667 words per day.  Now since I attended on the 5th, the first meeting had been scheduled for the 29th October, but of course Hurricane Sandy cancelled that meeting out, I was already behind if I wanted to join in.

National Novel Writing Month is a world wide event.  It seems that you can sign up in your region or any where in the world chat or be encouraged to write.

Here are some published nanowrimo noveliests

So take a look at these links and see what you think.


Persephone 2013 Diary

I received my little package in the mail from the UK, the Persephone Biannually.  It’s just so fun to receive with updates on new publications and short stories.
This year I’ve ordered the 2013 Persephone Diary.  Every year I look around for a diary that I will enjoy for the year.  Two years ago I made my own on Blurb.  This year as it commemorates 100 books for Persephone and has all the beautiful fabric end papers in one collection, I thought that I would enjoy this.
Every Persephone book has a grey cover, but to brighten the book all the inside sheets have a different fabric pattern, representing the era of the story.

What I’ve Been Reading, Midnight In Peking by Paul French and Full Body Burden by Kristen Iversen

Midnight in Peking, the year is 1937 Pamela Werner’s body is found near The Fox Tower on a piece of no mans land.  This is a time when Peking is being closed in upon by the Japanese, many Westerners are leaving if they can, many can’t as they are the flotsam and jetsam who have left Europe over the last decades, many being white Russians, add this to fortune hunters, diplomats and a very free life style, an underworld of opium and you have a true mystery.

Two detectives investigate the crime, a British detective Dennis and a Chinese detective Han.  It has shocked the elite enclaved mostly European community.  Who could do such a shocking thing a madman?  Must be a Chinese person or could it be one of their own?

These are the questions that haunt the detectives, but as time goes on one can see there is a lot of politics and payoffs involved.  This true story is revisited by Paul French and he does a great job, unearthing and reading through all the correspondence that Pamela’s father sent to the foreign office in London after he did his own investigation.  You can come to some very compelling conclusions as to who did it, and why.

It’s a great insight into Peking on the cuspid of WWII, but so sad that a teenage girls life should end like that.

Full Body Burden.  Growing up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats.  This is also a true story of Kristen Iversen, who lived in a wonderful new housing development built yes withing a hairs breath of Rocky Flats.

Just the name itself Rocky Flat is something you think now where have I heard that?  I can’t say I read the whole book because it became very detailed in statistics, but I found the beginning very compelling and read quite a bit.

Did you know that the third worst nuclear disaster happened back in the fifties at Rocky Flats and was not equaled until more recently by Chernobyl and the Fukushima nuclear disaster that just happened in Japan.  That was kept under wraps and only providence of the wind blowing in the other direction stopped the whole of Denver, Colorado from being contaminated.  Of course one could ask who was contaminated then?

A compelling book to read and probably if I had more time I would read the entire book.  The perfect suburbia of the 1950s gone awry.  People becoming ill and not knowing why, it’s all so new and what do they actually do at that plant, the government would never let us live here or build here if it wasn’t safe!

Yes the people of 2012 are less trusting or are we?

I may come back and finish this book at some point, it makes you think.


*** The Making of A Marchioness by H. Burnett

I just finished reading The Making of A Marchioness by H. Burnett, the writer of Secret Garden one of her best known books.  I must have started it well over a year ago, read Part 1; which I totally enjoyed but could see that Part 2 was darker and put it down.

Now I’ve finished it would not rate as one of my best reads, but it is a good read.  It’s one on the Persephone list.

When I read a little bit about her life , I could see how it did play into her writing.  An abusive husband her wish to live a certain life style, moving up in the world, her details in what was worn.


Christys Book Reviews