When I saw that pairing of publisher and title my first thought was that this was probably an interesting but worthy tract from the late sixties or early seventies, somewhere around the time that Virago was first born!
This book was written for an earlier generation, back in the 1930s.
It is witty, warm and wise; and its new incarnation, as a little hardback book with a cute pink cover, feels wonderfully right.
It would slip easily into a handbag, and it would be a lovely gift for the right person.
I think that the thing I loved most about this book was the voice.
Imagine a friend who you think is a little bossy, but you know is usually right; and who you are sure has your best interests at heart and will do her level best to help you get up and get back on the right path when life has knocked you sideways. That’s what you have here. Not someone who will do it for you, but someone who will give you the confidence to do it yourself, and who will be the very best kind of cheerleader.
Now when this friend came to write her book, she had the wisdom to know that some are single by choice and that some are not at all happy to be single, and that a lady might be beginning a solo life when young, middle-aged or elderly, and that it might be forever or just for a little while.
Her advice is sound; and now I’m going to paraphrase a little:
You must enjoy arranging your home and your life just as you like!
You should know when you need to call on your friends!
You can pursue your interests and enjoy your leisure!
You would be wise to think about the etiquette for a single lady in social situations!
You really can live your life exactly as you want, follow whatever interest you want!
She understands that the single lady needs to know that there are lots of tasty meals she can rustle up for herself, that a single bed really is something to be appreciated, that there are lots of way to entertain guests, and that there are some very effective ways of getting rid of a gentleman caller who lingers for too long.
Her text is peppered with lovely little black and white drawings, and her advices is interspersed with accounts of a wonderful array of single women. Some of them have got things wrong, but the majority have got things right and demonstrate that there so many different ways you can be solo and successful.
There’s little about the duller kind of practicalities. Jobs that need doing round the house, living within your means, finding tradespeople, that kind of thing. This is a book about having style, about having confidence, about living your life to the full!
It’s a period piece, but so much of what it says still holds good, and the only thing that feels out of date is the assumption that you will have a maid.
The voice still speaks clearly, and though I know that one was a real Vogue editor and the other was fictional, I couldn’t help wondering if the author of this book and the Provincial Lady had ever met.
Well, they were contemporaries, and I’m sure each would have been wonderfully entertained by the other!