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Another provincial lady ...
on 1 July 2010
But this one is not nearly as amusing as EMD's later and far more famous creation. Laura is 34 and has been married to Alfred for seven years, and although she is a moderately successful writer, she can't think of anything to say to him other than chat about their children.
Nicola Beauman, in her introduction, wonders if this novel can be appreciated by readers other than middleclass married women with children ... and as I fall outside this group, maybe that's why I struggled with it. Like the other provincial lady, Laura has a large house and not enough money to keep up appearances; she struggles to keep servants and is worn out if she has to mind her own children for even a few hours. She realises that she was never in love with her husband, but she wanted the status of being a married woman. She appreciates what Alfred has done for her - but then a whole new vista opens up when she meets Duke Ayland who offers not sex, but emotional engagement.
Nicola Beauman obviously feels that women readers will sympathise with Laura: 'We can laugh at Alfred; we can smile wryly; or we can absolutely loathe him,' she says.
Actually, it was Alfred for whom I felt sympathy ... Laura is shackled by middleclass respectability, but it can't have been much fun for the men who were married to women like this! No wonder they'd sooner finish the crossword than have sex!