Review of Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson:
Overview from www.bn.com: Barbara Buncle 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 Buncle'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.
This next book is going to be hard to describe. It was apparently written in the 1930’s by an author that I had never heard of before. It features the story of one Barbara Buncle who is something of a spinster leaving with her maid in a small English village.
When I started to read this one, I had just finished reading one of my writing books that goes into much detail about how to write certain styles of POV (Point of View) and when you might want to use which. I think this influenced my opinion of the book.
The first chapter, I am sorry to say, was rather boring. It begins with an opening sentence of: “One fine summer’s morning the sun peeped over the hills and looked down upon the valley of Silverstream.” Boring. Of course, I had to remind myself that this was a different time and this is how many books were written at that time.
The first chapter continues on in the same veins, going on to talk about cows in the valley and then the baker and her struggle to find a good employee to deliver her buns. Even when we finally get to our heroine’s house, we hear a great deal about Dorcas, her housekeeper, and her struggles to get her work done.
Eventually, after a couple of chapters, it starts to get interesting. We learn about Barbara’s book and how she had it accepted by the first publisher she sent it to. (Not fair at all.) But it is what the book is about that turns her little village upside down.
It is all about her town and her neighbors. She wrote a book that was essential about them and what they have done. Of course, they don’t like it one bit, even if she did change a few names and characteristics.
Much to their chagrin, the book, entitled Disturber of the Peace, is a runaway best seller. Lawyers refuse to take a libel suit to court for fear of looking ridiculous and the publisher, Mr. Abbott, won’t listen to their demands that he remove it from the market, so what’s left?
Members of the town of Silverstream vow to discover once and for all who the author is and to come up with a way that they can punish him. (Only Dorcas, Barbara, and her publisher know Barbara’s identity since she used a pen name.)
And while all of this is going on, some of the real life people that Barbara has based her characters on decide to take up the author’s advice and follow the path of the characters they are based on by doing exactly the same things that Barbara has their counterparts doing. Meanwhile, Barbara is writing a sequel.
So, yes, the book started out slow but it did get interesting. I found Barbara to be a wonderful protagonist. I didn’t always appreciate the omniscient, authorial intrusion but the story and the characters more than made up for that. I liked their amusing expressions such as Dorcas saying, “I am all behind, like a cow’s tail.” It reminded me of a lot of South Eastern American expressions that amuse me.
And, to top it off, nothing in this story was really offensive to me. (Though Mrs. Featherstone Hogg might feel differently.) It was just some good, clean fun all around.