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Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson

Miss Buncle's Book (original 1934; edition 2008)

by D.E. Stevenson

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6044816,187 (4.19)257
Title:Miss Buncle's Book
Authors:D.E. Stevenson
Info:Persephone Books Ltd (2008), Paperback, 344 pages
Collections:Your library, Favorites
Tags:Fiction 20th Century, D.E. Stevenson, Persephone, Humor

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Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson (1934)


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Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson; Persephone; (4*)

Miss Buncle's Book is another cleverly drawn story about a spinster lady. Barbara Buncle has been living off her dividends for many years and now the tide has turned and interests are not paying what they used to. Her dividend cheques become smaller and smaller until she and Dorcas, her housekeeper, begin to wonder however will they manage........

But being the person that she is, Miss Buncle begins to think on how she can earn a living for herself and continue to pay her housekeeper who has been with her since her childhood days. She knows that she cannot go out into service or the work force for it simply wouldn't do for a genteel lady to do so and she would no longer be accepted within her circles. Aha; she comes upon an idea to write a book but as she begins it, try as she may, her imagination will only allow her to play upon that which she knows. The people of the village where she has lived all of her life.

And so it begins........the story of her fellow villagers........with the names changed of course (to protect the innocent, lol) and their lives switched up a bit. There is the sweet, naive, young Vicar, the ghastly and self centered woman who is out to seduce & wed the poor fellow for she believes he is monied. There is the good doctor and his sweet but frail wife and their twin babies for whom she is always knitting and sewing. There is the couple with the two children who so fear the husband and father that not a peep nor foot tapping can be heard in the house. There are the two single women who have decided to share a home so as to simply their finances. And there are many others.

Miss Buncle's Book is written under the pseudo name of John Smith. She does not want the inhabitants to know that she wrote the book and when it is completed she goes into London to one Mr. Abbott of a publishing firm. He does not come recommended to her but instead she simply went through the publishing houses alphabetically and he came up first. Mr. Abbott is not surprised to find that John Smith is actually a woman. Barbara Buncle leaves the manuscript with him and he spends the afternoon and evening reading it and finds it to be a funny and whimsical read. He likes it very much. When he calls Miss Buncle in, they discuss the book and he writes up a contract for her right then and there.

The book sells very well and the publisher has to order several printings to keep up with the demand. It sells especially well in the village where Miss Buncle lives. People are reading it in droves and most are actually very angry as they recognize themselves, most in not too pretty of a light, and they recognize their neighbors, friends, town merchants, etc. All in all, Miss Buncle's Book, wreaks all kinds of havoc.

I found this tale to be rather ingenious and I loved it. It is a very comfortable book to read with not a lot of depth but when one reads a book for the pure joy of reading there is no need for the depth that one seeks out at other times. I very highly recommend this one for all readers of all ages. It WAS a joy for this reader. ( )
1 vote rainpebble | Aug 17, 2014 |
This is most definitely not a book for everyone, but if you like affectionate takes on English eccentrics, it's hard to get better.

Miss Buncle, confronted with dwindling dividends, resolves that writing a book is the best way of shoring up her finances. Wholly without imagination, however, she resorts to thinly disguised portraits of her own village. Thus does the sleepy Silverstream become "Copperfield", and when its denizens find out, chaos breaks loose.

I really, really enjoyed this book. It's light as a souffle, but Stevenson's frothy prose up to the task. English farce is a kind of subgenre, one I'm quite partial too, but it can be tricky to pull off. If you make the book too lightweight, there's no momentum to keep a reader going. But if you weigh it down with serious characterisation or narrative, the inherent absurdity becomes too much.

Stevenson navigates the territory most ably. The book has a fairly cracking pace, and the wide cast provides a welcome contrast, ranging from unpleasant and silly to sensible and nice - and every permutation in between.

Whilst gently mocking, the book's tone never slips into bitterness, and nor does Stevenson deprive the reader of the ending we want. The dialogue is light and very play-like, and the prose itself - amused, slightly removed, flowery in just the right places - is a vital contributor to the book's humour.

But there's an extra treat to Mrs Buncle's book: in a postmodern twist very progressive for 1934, the book-within-a-book structure becomes its own delightful puzzle box.

The parallels (and differences) - between the characters of Silverstream and Copperfield, and their fates, lends a very pleasing, mischievous complexity to an otherwise straight forward novel. In addition there's a lovely recursive element, where a disruptive element in the book-within is mirrored by the production of the book itself in the actual novel. I probably haven't explained that very well. Suffice to say it's well done, Stevenson doesn't harp on it, and it's quite clever.

I can't really picture a way this book could have accomplished what it wanted to any better - hence a well-deserved 5 stars. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but it's about as good as it gets within the genre. ( )
  patrickgarson | Aug 2, 2014 |
I didn't realize until I finished this book that it was first published in 1934. I thought it a charming, old-fashioned kind of writing, and that explains why.
As for the story, Miss Buncle writes a book very thinly veiling the people of her village as fictitious, and the people who are portrayed negatively, almost all of them, are not happy about it, and want to know how this author, this “John Smith,” really is.

The characters are quirky but the book is sweet. There is some romance and Miss Buncle develops an alter ego as Elizabeth Wade. No outstanding plot, just a gentle, fun book.

In fact, it was a little too gentle and fun for my tastes. I like “cute” and “charming” but only in small doses, and this one was a bit of an overdose for me.

Although this book is a pleasant palate cleanser and although I like to read fluff occasionally, I don't think I'll be reading the next in the trilogy, Miss Buncle Married. ( )
  TooBusyReading | Jul 13, 2014 |
Six-word review: Perfectly delightful feelgood novel charms gracefully.

Extended review:

A novel about a woman who writes a novel about a woman writing a novel. With remarkable depth and insight, this gentle satire entertains while showing us the absurd and the admirable in a motley cast of village characters. I enjoyed every page of this down-to-earth narrative and look forward to meeting some, if not all, of the characters in one or more sequels.

Three and a half stars signify a thoroughly satisfactory read that does not aspire to venture into serious literary territory but does what it does very well indeed. ( )
  Meredy | Jun 27, 2014 |
Barbara Buncle is a middle aged spinster who has been forced by reduced circumstances to seek additional income and so has written a novel based on the village in which she lives under a pseudonym in the hope of making some money. To her delight her book is published and becomes wildly popular, putting an end to her financial problems. However, the residents of Miss Buncle’s village are less thrilled when they discover that they all feature in the book and many of them are less than flattered. If only they can find the author, the mysterious John Smith, then there is certain to be trouble.

Miss Buncle’s Book was everything I had hoped for and more. It is a charming tale of village life which becomes less and less typical as the plot advances, culminating in events which are utterly outlandish, incredibly far-fetched and delightfully entertaining. It is light and fluffy but prevented from being vacuous by the sharp intelligence which lies behind the keen observations of people and their ways which make this book so enjoyable.

Primarily, Miss Buncle’s Book is a novel of character, giving D. E. Stevenson the opportunity to draw portraits of a variety of different people from the doctor to the indomitable Mrs Featherstone Hogg. She is able to convey a great deal of information about her characters without saying things directly, such as in the beginning of the chapter entitled ‘Mrs Carter’s Tea-Party’:

Barbara knew when she saw the china that Mrs Featherstone Hogg was expected, and her spirits fell a degree for she did not like Mrs Featherstone Hogg. Barbara had met Dorothea Bold on the doorstep and they had gone in together, and Miss King and Miss Pretty were there already. But not for these would Mrs Carter have produced her best eggshell cups and saucers, that filmy drawn-thread-work tea-cloth, those lusciously bulging cream buns. (p. 61)

I love the way that Stevenson has focused on the little details like this, making them seem large and important and so drawing the reader into the rather petty and insular world of Silverstream with its little intrigues and high dramas, which is nonetheless a very enjoyable place to be. Persephone have already published the sequel to this book, Miss Buncle Married, and I really hope that they plan to continue republishing the series as I definitely want to spent more time in the company of Barbara Buncle. ( )
1 vote Ygraine | May 7, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
D. E. Stevensonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carey, EileenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Templeton, AlineIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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One fine summer's morning the sun peeped over the hills and looked down on the valley of Silverstream.
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Book description
Who Knew One Book Could Cause So Much Chaos?

Barbara Bunde is in a bind. Times are harsh, and Barbara's bank account has seen better days. Maybe she could sell a novel ... if she knew any stories. Stumped for ideas, Barbara draws inspiration from her fellow residents of Silverstream, the little English village she knows inside and out. 

To her surprise, the novel is a smash. It's a good thing she wrote under a pseudonym, because the folks of Silverstream are in an uproar. But what really turns Miss Bunde's world around is this: what happens to the characters in her book starts happening to their real-life counterparts. Does life really imitate art? 
[retrieved 1/22/2014 from Amazon.com]
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Who Knew One Book Could Cause So Much Chaos? Barbara Bunde is in a bind. Times are harsh, and Barbara's bank account has seen better days. Maybe she could sell a novel ... if she knew any stories. Stumped for ideas, Barbara draws inspiration from her fellow residents of Silverstream, the little English village she knows inside and out. To her surprise, the novel is a smash. It's a good thing she wrote under a pseudonym, because the folks of Silverstream are in an uproar. But what really turns Miss Bunde's world around is this: what happens to the characters in her book starts happening to their real-life counterparts. Does life really imitate art? A beloved author who has sold more than seven million books, D. E. Stevenson is at her best with Miss Buncle's Book, crafting a highly original and charming tale about what happens when people see themselves through someone else's eyes. Love it, love it, love it There are no vampires, no faeries, no weird creatures, just a sweet story about real people living in a world I've always dreamed of.?Reader Review… (more)

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