Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson

So it seems I may be starting my very own private Persephone Reading Week here, as I just finished Miss Buncle’s Book this evening! I’ve got it plus To Bed With Grand Music and The Victorian Chaise-Longue, both by Marghanita Laski, all on inter-library loans, ordered during the official Persephone Reading Week at the beginning of May and I need to return them soon, so I’ve been busy reading and laughing excessively.

Somehow Miss Buncle’s Book (by D.E. Stevenson, her novel Mrs. Tim of the Regiment has recently been republished by the Bloomsbury Group too, so I’ll need to get myself a copy) is even more adorable than Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, at least to me! I want to give it a hug and we can become best pals and braid each other’s hair (and I’d better stop before I get too carried away on that note!) In some ways it’s similar to Miss Pettigrew, both feature older women who have to earn their living somehow, but Miss Barbara Buncle decides to write a book about all the people in her country village and she’s naive enough to capture their faults down to a hair and enrage a good half of them utterly. It’s delightful seeing the good changes that happen in the village as a result of her book and how everyone tries to figure out just who wrote about them.

It is absolutely refreshing to read a book with at least half the characters being genuinely nice, good people (the other half are amusingly and increasingly out of control in meanness) and with a few small gentle romances that are quiet and unsentimental. It’s adorable, it has fresh country air about it, old men say “hurrah!” in it (and how often does that happen, really?) and my library has the next book, Miss Buncle Married. Hurrah, as they say! I wish I had my own dove grey copy of it, but in the meantime, library copies are lovely. I’m not sure if quotes will really capture the magic of it, there are late night reading sessions in old leather armchairs next to crackling fires and grey tweeds are worn by breathless young girls and there are autumn bonfires and daffodils in spring and oh just read it, it’s the perfect cup of tea for what ails you.

18 thoughts on “Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson

  1. Study Window says:

    For some reason my local library doesn’t carry Persephone publications, which of course is a really good excuse for buying my own. I still have one or two unread on my shelves and I’m rationing them out until I can afford some more. Of all the Persephone authors, I think Laski has been the most popular with members of my reading groups so you have a real treat waiting for you.

    • Carolyn says:

      My library has some (but not all, oh why??) of the Persephone Classics, which is nice, but I also found that searching the catalogue by each author or title sometimes led me to more Persephone books in other older editions than I first thought they had! But I think I will have to get my own copy of Miss Buncle’s Book eventually, it’s the perfect comfort read.

      I’ve heard how popular Laski is among Persephone fans, I’m just not sure if I’m ready to switch over to something more somber after such a light-hearted read.

  2. Penny says:

    I used to have all DE Stevenson’s books, (and Angela Thirkell’s – found in a bundle at a secondhand shop) but gave them away to charity shops when moving and trying desperately to make room for all our books in a much smaller house (this one). Of course, now we have MANY more books than we had then…
    I enjoyed the Miss Buncle stories, but found a lot of DES’s writing like Enid Blyton for grown-ups! I enjoyed the stories themselves, but often found myself re-writing them in my head. (I was the same with the early Harry Potter books, which I would edit for unnecessary repetition etc., as I read them aloud to the family…)
    I’ll see if I can find this one (surely it must have escaped the purge?) as I know I would enjoy re-reading it. I think, now, the charm would over-ride any reservations about writing style. I loved her cosy subjects, plots and characters, though found myself bridling at her usage of ‘English’ to mean ‘British’, even though she was a fellow Scot!

    • Carolyn says:

      WHAT you had them all and gave them away????? I was just thinking how lovely it would be to read more more more of her books! Especially as she wrote so many. I did not grow up on Enid Blyton or any of these other lovely comforting British classics (nor are they always easy to find in secondhand Canadian shops!), you don’t know how good you have it! I go into bookstores here and all I get if I want a good cosy girl’s comfort read is cringe worthy chick lit being thrown at my face. D.E. Stevenson is so much better than chick lit, genuinely charming and kind and refreshing and also well written, I have no reservations about her at all! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I only wish more of her books were being republished and that readers actually had a wider choice in bookstores, rather than more ‘this is what everyone else reads’ rubbish.

    • Elizabeth Roberts says:

      Hi Penny Just in case you can come: we are launching Persephone’s re-issue of Miss Buncle Married in Moffat with champagne on April 16, along with some other festivities (a presentation on how to dress in vintage by Lynne McCrossan and a 1930’s style tea, followed later by a meditation on marriage by Abi Roberts – a preview of the show she is doing later in the year at the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh ‘Abi Roberts Takes You Up The Aisle’

  3. Mrs.B. says:

    Lovely review! I enjoyed this so much when I read it earlier this year. I’m not sure but I think I also mentioned in my review that it was much, much better than Miss Pettigrew.

    • Carolyn says:

      Oh good, I worried a bit I might be committing Persephone heresy by liking this more than Miss Pettigrew! I think it depends on the reader too, both books have very innocent older unmarried women who have amusing adventures and grow and change, but Miss Pettigrew has more of the dash of the city in the ’30s whereas Miss Buncle is a quieter country story. I grew up in the country and long to be back there, so I liked Miss Buncle better.

    • Carolyn says:

      Oh good, I think you will love it. Since you mentioned how you like the ‘diamonds in the dew drops’ type of book I’ve been noticing moments like that more in what I read too and this book has them in abundance.

  4. Nymeth says:

    Both this and D.E. Stevenson’s Bloomsbury Group re-release do sound absolutely charming! I know what you mean about it being refreshing to read books where kindness and gentleness triumph. I’ve just finished one of those (Ruby Holler, a Carnegie winner) and it was a delight.

  5. Aarti says:

    Oh, this sounds delightful! I shall have to look this author up. Someone above mentioned getting rid of her Angela Thirkells- sad! I have only read one of hers (I have only ever FOUND one of hers) and really enjoyed it and would love to read more. It seems Thirkell and Stevenson may be more readily available in the UK than in the US.

    • Carolyn says:

      Yes, D.E. Stevenson is well worth looking for. I’ve been hearing about Angela Thirkell around the blogosphere lately, it’s so exciting to discover wonderful older authors like this. I think some British readers may take them a little for granted…

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