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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 16 September 2011
This is the first D E Stevenson book I have read and I found it utterly enchanting, very amusing, and all in all a pure delight. Miss Buncle Married is the next D E Stevenson book on my reading list. Miss Buncle is a very plain looking, mousy person who decides to write a novel set in a village with a set of diverse characters. What it turns out to be is a thinly disguised story of her own village and the people she encounters in it. When it is published many of those who read it become in turn angry, and paranoid and determined to find out who the author is and get the book taken out of circulation. If you want a good chuckle then read this book.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 September 2012
"The past is a foreign country..." In Miss Buncle's Book, set in the 1930s, the past is not so much a foreign country as a whole other world.

The small village of Silverstream where the story takes place seems to have only about half a dozen inhabitants all of whose lives are changed by the book that Miss Buncle has written about them incognito. The book is called 'Disturber of the Peace' and it acts as a deus ex machina, bringing about 'happily ever afters' for the nice villagers and well deserved come-uppances for the horrible ones.

No sign of the real world creeps into the telling of this tale. You won't gain an understanding of the hardships of the '30s from D. E. Stevenson and that, for me, was really the only similarity with Jane Austen (alluded to by other reviewers).

There is one plot point in the Silverstream villagers' attempt to uncover the writer of the roman a clef that was so ludicrously far-fetched that it jarred and I felt (rather like the fictional publisher of 'Disturber of the Peace') that it really didn't belong in Miss Buncle's Book at all.

The writing is capable and quite charming but I didn't find the book as engaging as many other readers seem to have done. I found it all rather repetitive, very predictable but pleasant enough. Hence 3*.
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on 14 July 2013
I am a big fan of Persephone Books. They currently publish 102 titles, books that should have been classics yet have been overlooked. The books themselves are classically beautiful, understated dove grey covers with a cream title box and discreet Persephone logo. However, you open up and see beautiful endpapers, in the case of Miss Buncle's Book a 1934 design by Vanessa Bell. Persephone books also come with a bookmark to match the endpapers, a fabulous idea (and you really won't want to bend back the corners of the pages of a Persephone book, so much needed). Another feature of Persephone books which appeals to me is the layout on the page-rather than cramming as many words as possible onto each one, pages are set out with wide borders which makes them easy to read. The materials used by Persephone are high quality, making each book a delight to behold.

Of course, this would all be irrelevant if the novels themselves were poor quality. However, I'm yet to be disappointed by a Persephone book. Some are more accessible than others, but all the titles I have read have been engaging.

Miss Buncle's Book is extremely readable. The plot is simple- Barbara Buncle has written a novel under the pseudonym John Smith. The characters in her novel are all based on residents of Buncle's village, Silverstream. When the book becomes a success, uproar ensues. The villagers recognise themselves in the book and are determined to uncover the identity of the mysterious John Smith.

Stevenson's writing style is perfect-not too verbose to distance the reader, yet detailed, charming and classical. Much of Miss Buncle's Book focuses on the banal, day-to-day life of an average British village in the 1930s. It is the characters and the interactions between them that will hook you in, and the book hasn't dated despite the fact it was written in 1934. Yes, life is portrayed differently to how it would be in modern society, but it still feels relevant and believable.

Would I recommend Miss Buncle's Book? Absolutely. I only wish I had read it sooner. This really is a book that deserves to be widely read and held in high esteem. As Sarah says in the novel, 'You miss a lot by not being able to read...these people are real, live people-they are quite delicious'. I feel exactly the same about the characters in Miss Buncle's Book. DE Stevenson deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as female authors held in the highest regard. Miss Buncle's Book really is delicious, delightful, divine. Please go and read a copy, and when you enjoy it, tell your friends to read it too.


* this review was first published at [...]
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on 30 July 2010
`Quaint' may seem an unusual adjective to describe a book but in this case it feels entirely apt.

Miss Buncle is in her late thirties, a perfectly pleasant but rather dull woman, similar in some ways to how I imagine a younger Miss Marple would have looked. As she casts around for ways to supplement her dwindling dividend income, nothing appeals until Dorcas, her nurse when she was a baby and now her loyal maid, suggests that she write a book. Acknowledging that she has no imagination, Miss Buncle writes about the only subject she knows - the village where she lives and its inhabitants. The consequences are the main thrust of the story, a light-hearted tale that's amusing, perceptive, and beautifully written in an old-fashioned sort of way. Even so, it has its moments of tension and suspense.

This is another Persephone gem, attractively presented (in this edition, at least), with a plain grey exterior opening to reveal a muted but colourful floral design.
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on 16 May 2011
Barbara Buncle is a middle aged spinster who has been forced by reduced circumstances to seek additional income and so has written a novel based on the village in which she lives under a pseudonym in the hope of making some money. To her delight her book is published and becomes wildly popular, putting an end to her financial problems. However, the residents of Miss Buncle's village are less thrilled when they discover that they all feature in the book and many of them are less than flattered. If only they can find the author, the mysterious John Smith, then there is certain to be trouble.

Miss Buncle's Book was everything I had hoped for and more. It is a charming tale of village life which becomes less and less typical as the plot advances, culminating in events which are utterly outlandish, incredibly far-fetched and delightfully entertaining. It is light and fluffy but prevented from being vacuous by the sharp intelligence which lies behind the keen observations of people and their ways which make this book so enjoyable.

Primarily, Miss Buncle's Book is a novel of character, giving D. E. Stevenson the opportunity to draw portraits of a variety of different people from the doctor to the indomitable Mrs Featherstone Hogg. She is able to convey a great deal of information about her characters without saying things directly, such as in the beginning of the chapter entitled `Mrs Carter's Tea-Party':

Barbara knew when she saw the china that Mrs Featherstone Hogg was expected, and her spirits fell a degree for she did not like Mrs Featherstone Hogg. Barbara had met Dorothea Bold on the doorstep and they had gone in together, and Miss King and Miss Pretty were there already. But not for these would Mrs Carter have produced her best eggshell cups and saucers, that filmy drawn-thread-work tea-cloth, those lusciously bulging cream buns. (p. 61)

I love the way that Stevenson has focused on the little details like this, making them seem large and important and so drawing the reader into the rather petty and insular world of Silverstream with its little intrigues and high dramas, which is nonetheless a very enjoyable place to be. Persephone have already published the sequel to this book, Miss Buncle Married, and I really hope that they plan to continue republishing the series as I definitely want to spent more time in the company of Barbara Buncle.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 13 January 2014
I'm only sorry it has taken me until now to `discover' this author, as I suspect there are many gems and delights still to come for me, after having read this book.

Miss Buncle, a lady of `mature' years has found her dividends are not going to be at the same level this year as she has been used to, so she has written a book. Being a lady of simple tastes and mind and little imagination, she has written, under a pseudonym, about the people she knows, the inhabitants of Silverstream. But although she has changed their names to protect the innocent, it soon becomes clear that they think there is an author in their midst, and they are determined to hunt out the culprit.

First published in 1934, this novel has a wonderful fresh feel to it which is still relevant today. Miss Buncle is a delightfully naïve lady who finds herself in a maelstrom of bad feeling and intrigue in her village, and there is much to chuckle over in the book with all the different characters finding their way in life. This book takes a witty and insightful view of ordinary and rather eccentric people. This book is a delight to read, and I look forward to more of the author's works, including I believe two sequels to Miss Buncle's Book.
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on 15 January 2010
I have to admit to never having written a review for Amazon before, but have been forced into it by reading this delightful, witty and captivating read. I was given "Miss Buncle's Book" as a birthday present by a friend who said it was the book which she had re-read more than any other. I devoured it in one sitting - unheard of for me. I have given copies to all my discerning friends for Christmas and so far have had rave reviews from all of them. It's far too good a book to keep to yourself.Miss Buncle's Book
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This is an absolutely wonderful book. It is light and silly and charming and everything you would want for a totally escapist read. Miss Buncle is a single woman of a certain age living in a small village where everyone knows each other's business. Miss Buncle has fallen on hard times, and despite economising she is finding that she cannot make ends meet. She decides to write a book in the hope that it will sell, and boost her meagre income. She has, as she admits, 'no imagination', so she simply changes the names of the people who live in her village and writes about them. The book becomes a best seller and as the people of the village start to read it, they realise it is about them, and a parochial witch hunt ensues to find out which one of them is hiding behind the pseudonym 'John Smith'. The characters are beautifully drawn, the plot is fresh and original and the whole thing is an absolute pleasure to read.
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on 2 March 2011
I have only just discovered the author D E Stevenson, although I do remember reading Anna and her Daughters many, many years ago. I re-read it recently and then bought Miss Buncle's Book which I thoroughly enjoyed. Miss Buncle is struggling to make ends meet in the 1930s as her dividends dwindle so she writes a book, using a pseudonym which is accepted by a publisher and becomes a best seller. However, the book she has written includes all her neighbours and their foibles and personalities and although their names have been changed they are instantly recognisable. A huge furore follows.
The book is beautifully written, very funny with a sometimes sly wit and the author is clearly someone who had tremendous powers of observation. The good news is that Persephone is about to republish the sequel.
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on 10 March 2011
What can I add? A lovely, funny book yet one with a sure sense of values; the author does not disguise the meanness and narrowness of some villagers who long to drag their neighbours down, but most of them are nice people, and in the end they all get (more or less) what they deserve, including a totally unexpected romance for Miss Buncle herself. How was this masterpiece ever allowed to go out of print?
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