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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson

Topsham, Devon

The shy and mousy Barbara Buncle hides a secret.  She is what we used to call a ‘stirrer’, back in the day.  Impoverished, but genteel, she decides to write a book (as you do). ‘I wanted money,’ she tells her publisher, Mr. Abbott, when he asks her why she wrote it.

After all, writing a book beats keeping hens.  Her book (which is written under a pseudonym) stirs up the whole village and feathers certainly fly! (I couldn’t resist this).  Neighbours realise that they love each other, people go on holidays to places that they’ve never heard of and some people find out what they’re really like. Will thin and dowdy 40 year-old Barbara be able to transform herself, however?

Barbara is in all sorts of trouble when several people in her pretty English village become extremely angry with the author!   One even suggests that ‘he’ should be horse-whipped. There are many cats in this village – old and young cats – and they’re mostly human.  Will Barbara, who tends to be ignored or disliked by these cats and some others, be able to resist or defeat them?

This vintage book, which was written in the 1930’s, is an absolute charmer, like its main character. Likeable and sweet, Miss Buncle is not only hiding her book from the village.  She also hides an open mind and excellent judgment of character. Barbara’s comical adventures as she tries to avoid being ‘found out’ are often hilarious.  There are lots of other amusing characters in Miss Buncle’s Book as well, such as Dolores, Barbara’s maid, who suggests that Barbara should give up writing and ‘try hens’.  

I also loved Barbara’s publisher, the urbane and sophisticated Mr. Abbott.  He thinks that it ‘was simply marvellous’ when some people in the village call the author ‘immoral and perverted’. ‘I know. It was simply marvellous,’ replied Mr. Abbott, holding out his cigarette and watching the smoke curl upwards with appreciation and content.’ 

We can only hope that an astute producer decides to turn this into a film soon.  I am already attempting to imagine who will play the characters!

NB: I chose to put a picture of Topsham here because I've been there and it's a very pretty English village.

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