Page 14 - PB Cat 1999-2021
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 EM Delafield is best-known as the author of The Diar y of a Provincial Lady (1930). But her favourite among her books was Consequences (1919), the deeply-felt novel she wrote about the plight of girls given no opportunities apart from marriage.
Alex Clare is awkward and over- sensitive and gets everything wrong;
she refuses to marry the only young man who ‘offers’ and believes there is nothing left for her but to enter a convent. But that is not quite the end of her tragic story. Nor was it for EM Delafield, who also entered a convent for a year; but in her case she was able to find freedom through working as a VAD in an army hospital,‘which was emancipation of the most delirious kind. It was occupation, it was self-respect.’
Much of the book is spiky
and sharp: appropriately, the fabric for the endpaper is ‘Thistle’, a Silver Studio block-printed cotton sold at Liberty’s in 1896, the year
Alex would have been nineteen; by which time she is ensnared – scratched – by thickets of convention
and etiquette.
Like Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians, written at the same time, Consequences is a scream of horror against Victorian values; however, its ironic tone cannot disguise EM Delafield’s deeply compassionate and feminist stance.
The book has provoked strong reactions from our readers. Some have found Alex’s naïvety implausible, others have been very much moved by the incomprehension of those around her and by the ultimate tragedy of her life.
 NO 13
  448pp PERSEPHONE BOOKS ISBN 9781903155028

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