The night before last I read one of Georges Simenon's Maigret novels, The Head of a Man, and then started Diary of a Provincial Lady. I'd previously read Simenon's Three Bedrooms in Manhattan (an NYRB classic), but never one of his detective mysteries. (They are a bit like Dashiell Hammett's books, only set in Paris). Simenon, who once said that "writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness," had that amazing ability to convey a great deal with the least number of words. (There is a really enjoyable piece on Simenon in the recent edition of Bookforum with lots more about the man and his copious writings.)
Diary of a Provincial Lady is a sweetly clever work set between the two world wars. The main character, the narrator of the diary, lives in the country with her husband, children, nanny, and servants where she tries to make the most of the boring routine of her days and her less-than-attentive husband. Something of a bohemian in her younger days, she feels out of touch with the fashionable intelligentsia and laments that she has more trouble discussing the latest popular book (Orlando) after she's read it than before. Some anecdotes on the author by her daughter here. Bloggers stuck in a rut would do well to keep a copy of Diary close at hand for proof positive that even the most dreary subjects can prove entertaining with the right tone.