It's been a couple weeks since I finished Miss Buncle's Book, but it's unforgettable. Barbara Buncle is a single woman living in Depression-era Great Britain. Her income has trickled to nearly nothing, so with the idea of making money in mind, she has written a thinly-veiled account of life in her English village with a dash of fantasy in the form of a "golden boy" thrown in.
She meets with a cheery publisher and within a short time her book is selling well under the pseudonym "John Smith". But, there are complications. It doesn't take long for the villagers to discover the book, begin passing it around and wondering who has written about their lives. Most are angry about the way they've been portrayed, although a few think the book is simply entertaining.
While the villagers discuss the book and plot revenge, some of the book's fictional plotting begins to mysteriously come true. Is life imitating art? Or is Miss Buncle just unusually prescient? Will the villagers uncover the real name behind John Smith? And, isn't that cheery publisher charming?
Miss Buncle's Book started out as slow reading for me, although that may have something to do with the fact that I was in the thick of moving, at the time. Once the villagers became riled up and set out to find "John Smith" and teach him a lesson, I had difficulty putting the book down. What would become of Barbara Buncle, once the villagers found her out?
I don't think it's a spoiler to note that everyone in the village thought Miss Buncle couldn't possibly be the author of Disturber of the Peace. At least one person even claimed she was not clever enough to have written a book -- all of which made for some of the most interesting plot points toward the end of the book.
I loved Miss Buncle's Book. Barbara Buncle is a delightful character, her publisher is charming, there are plenty of villagers to love and at least two who are villainous enough to make you cheer when they get their just desserts. My only problem with the book was the fact that there are so many characters it's hard to keep them all straight. I finally reached the point at which I stopped trying to puzzle everyone out and just enjoyed the story. When I did that, the characters kindly stayed consistent and did a knock-out job of clarifying their individual stories so that eventually the cast was not so overwhelming.
Highly recommended to those looking for a good, breezy, old-fashioned tale. Miss Buncle's Book is a breath of fresh air. Light-hearted reading with a surprising plot, a lovable but slightly insecure heroine, a realistically large cast and a satisfying denouement. I will definitely be hunting down more books by D. E. Stevenson!
Miss Fiona says I've been posting too many photos of Isabel. Fi's turn!