Thursday, September 11, 2014

Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson, Persephone Book

Miss Buncle’s Book by D. E. Stevenson.

This book I borrowed from our local library, this was a wartime edition, actually no date in it, but on the inside back jacket it says LONDON CALLING OVERSEAS, and at the bottom it says FROM LONDON COMES THE VOICE OF BRITAIN … THE VOICE OF FREEDOM

Printed by Herbert Jenkins Limited, Duke of York Street, London, S.W.1

Miss Buncle’s Book is set in an English village, I would say circa 1930s.  The story centres round Miss Buncle a maiden lady whose dividends are so poor that she is obliged to write a book.  She’s a kindly truthful soul with not too much imagination and just writes about her friends and what’s going on in the village.

The publication of her book has quite unexpected results and changes not a few lives, and all for the better, including Miss Buncle’s. 

This story pushes all the parameters of an English Village of that time, with all the hierarchy of name and money, and how one is viewed, when you have so little means, but are obviously not of the laboring force.  How just a little money, oils the cogs, adds little niceties of life and enables one to dress differently and therefore feel differently and if you feel differently, confident in oneself, then this is exuded to others and they treat you so much better.

I have a friend who comes from a very poor background when a child, many ups and downs.  Her mother had to leave school to look after her siblings, her mother always said, “If you dress nicely people respect you more.”  This has always been my friend’s motto and I think it’s very true.

Here are some passages from the book that I enjoyed.

“What fools the public were!  They were exactly like sheep … though Mr. Abbott sleepily … following each other’s lead, neglecting one book and buying another just because other people were buying it.”  Mr. Abbott is Miss Buncle’s publisher.

“Murmuration of starlings.”  I love that word for a group of starlings.

“She wondered idly what Barbara Buncle was thinking about now, sitting there with that silly vacant smile upon her face.  She would have been surprised if she could have read the thoughts that prompted the silly smile.”

“ … A jacket, with a beautiful picture of a Golden Boy, playing a reed pipe”  The jacket cover she wanted for her book.  As you can see in the above picture it was used as the jacket cover for this book.

Giving away Ernest’s money to charities, Ernest is the young vicar  …  Who has always had a very nice trust fund and has no idea what it is to live on extremely limited means.  His guardian wisely does not comply with his wishes, just lets him think he has for a year.  This all works out well though because a haradan who has had an eye on Ernest's money, now drops him like a hot potato.

“Good.”  Said Ernest at last, stretching his arms, “I’m free”

“You are bound,” thought Mr. Whitney, Ernest’s guardian,  but he was too wise to say so.

“How nice for you – and for her of course,” exclaimed Barbara.  She had lived for so long amongst these people and had suffered so many afternoon teas that she was able to say the expected thing without thinking about it at all.  You simply put a penny in the machine and the expected thing came out at once, all done up in a neat little packet, and suitably labelled.  The machine worked without any effort on Barbara’s part, it even worked when the real Barbara was absent and only the shell, dressed in it’s shabby garments, remained sitting upright upon its chair.  The real Barbara often flew away like that and took refuge from the dullness and boredom of Silverstream in the scintillating atmosphere of Copperfield.”

“Filth!”  she cried.  “Filth!”  and flung it on to the table all amongst the cakes and china and chrysanthemums.  It lay there half resting upon a dish of cream buns, and half propped up against the damson jam – it was a copy of Barbara Buncle’s book”

“ ‘The portrait which you find so ugly was never intended to be a portrait of you.  If you really think you are like that we are sorry for you and offer you our sincere sympathy.’” Says Mr. Abbott.

I do love this above passage, because the person is entrapped either way.

“Then Miss Buncle was distressed about the stir caused by her book and Mr. Abbott knew of nothing more soothing to worry or distress than a nice round fat cheque (or bank note).”

“What fun it had been that morning at the bank!  Barbara had gone in soon after the bank had opened, and the young man with the fair hair and the supercilious expression (Mr. Black his name was, and he was one of Mrs. Dick’s paying guests) had looked up from his desk and seen who it was and gone on writing for at least two minutes before he came to see what she wanted.  No need to bother about that old frump, he had said to himself – or Barbara thought that he had.” 

“Lovely bonfire!”  Sally said, poking it so that the flames shot up with a roaring, crackling sound.  “The French call it ‘feu de joie’ – I think that’s and awfully good name for it, don’t you?  Is this a ‘feu do joie” or is it just burning rubbish?”

“It’s a ‘feu de joie’, “Barbara replied incautiously.”

Literally means:

feu de joie
ˌfœ də ˈZHwä/
  1. a rifle salute fired by soldiers on a ceremonial occasion, each soldier firing in succession along the ranks to make a continuous sound.

 I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have taken so long to actually write this review, do read it, you will not be disappointed.

Take care,

P.S.  I have not forgotten my Worpress Blog, it just takes me so much longer to post there as I am not used to it, so for now and a future time, when I have time here are my reviews

1 comment:

  1. Sounds interesting so must try to borrow a copy from the library especially with the winter and dark evenings not too far away. Thank you for your review.


01 09 10