by: D.E. Stevenson
I can’t believe I’ve gotten this far in life without having heard of D.E. Stevenson or Miss Buncle’s Book. It’s a travesty.
Miss Buncle’s Book is the kind of funny, delightful, and genuinely sweet book that I just adore. It follows the adventures of Miss Buncle, a frumpy spinster resident of the charming British village of Silverstream. Finding herself financially embarrassed, Miss Buncle resolves to make a dollar or two by writing and publishing a book. Rather fortunately, Miss Buncle is only able to write about what she knows, and the only thing Miss Buncle knows is her own small village. Unfortunately, despite her clever name-changing, the residents of Silverstream soon recognize themselves in the pages of the much-lauded novel, Disturber of the Peace. Hijinks, as you can imagine, soon ensue.
This book is absolutely adorable. At the core of it are people finding themselves, breaking out from the roles they have so diligently learned to play and redefining themselves long after they thought it was possible to do so. It reminded me strongly of “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” which is one of my favorite movies ever.
The characters are well-developed and likeable and just good fun. The mean ones are mean enough to be disliked but not mean enough to concern the reader – it’s one of those books that leave you smiling. There are developing friendships and developing relationships and established relationships. All of them are sweet and heartwarming.
The only thing I had a strong distaste for was one of the relationships in the book. It developed quite wonderfully but it ended on the dynamic of the strong man leading the shy, retiring woman into wedded bliss. I know it’s somewhat reflective of the times but still… ew. It felt a bit overly pushy – from his end – just at the very end of the novel; the only dark spot on an otherwise wonderful story. Especially since that female character had done quite a bit of exploring and growing on her end.
On the plus side, there was (very definitely, by my accounting) a barely disguised lesbian couple in there that reminded me of my grandmothers. So cute! And – this is kinda spoiler-y – they get their very own happy ending. It was very unexpected to find in a book first published in 1936. But very excellent and it makes me happy about the state of mankind. (Again, how did I just find out about this book?!)
I loved watching the characters bumbling through their journeys of self-discovery. Nothing big happens in the novel; there’s no dramatic tales of treachery or star-crossed lovers. Just a bunch of delightful people doing more or less everyday things.
If you’re into fun romps and quaint British stories in which nothing truly bad can happen, written about people you’re quite sure you recognize, you might want to give this one a go. If you’re looking for more meaty novels with grand themes or tragic characters or if you like a touch of adventure and danger, than perhaps this isn’t the book for you.