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Barbara Buncle #1

Miss Buncle's Book

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Barbara Buncle is in a bind. Times are harsh, and Barbara's bank account has seen better days. Stumped for ideas, Barbara draws inspiration from fellow residents of her quaint English village, writing a revealing novel that features the townsfolk as characters. The smashing bestseller is published under the pseudonym John Smith, which is a good thing because villagers recognize the truth. But what really turns her world around is when events in real life start mimicking events in the book. Funny, charming, and insightful, this novel reveals what happens when people see themselves through someone else's eyes.

448 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1934

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About the author

D.E. Stevenson

76 books492 followers
There is more than one author with this name

Dorothy Emily Stevenson was a best-selling Scottish author. She published more than 40 romantic novels over a period of more than 40 years. Her father was a cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson.

D.E. Stevenson had an enormously successful writing career: between 1923 and 1970, four million copies of her books were sold in Britain and three million in the States. Like E.F. Benson, Ann Bridge, O. Douglas or Dorothy L. Sayers (to name but a few) her books are funny, intensely readable, engaging and dependable.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,963 reviews
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
June 2, 2021
$2.99 Kindle sale, June 1, 2021. My favorite D.E. Stevenson book! Humor-filled read in a 1930s-era English village.

I've got some GR friends who are Stevenson fans, and finally, after reading this book, I feel like I really understand their love for her novels. Written in 1936 and set in about that same time, Miss Buncle's Book captures the charm of life in a small English town and the various characters who live there, with all their foibles.

Miss Barbara Buncle, a single lady in her thirties, is having trouble making ends meet, since her investments aren't paying dividends like they once were. Casting about for ways to earn some additional money (and rejecting keeping hens; they're "too fluttery"), she decides to write about the town she lives in, Silverstream, and the people she knows, and publishes it using the pseudonym of John Smith.


In her book, Disturber of the Peace, she changes the name of the town and people, but it's pretty transparent stuff: Silverstream becomes Copperfield, Major Waterfoot is the name given to the real Colonel Weatherhead, Dr. Walker is called Dr. Rider, and so on. So it's really funny when various people in town start to read the latest bestseller and realize that THEY ARE IN IT ... and the portrayal of their personalities isn't always flattering. Their reactions range from outrage (the elegant Mrs. Featherstone Hogg, aka Mrs. Horsley Downs, whose hidden past as a chorus girl prior to her marriage is brought to light) to vast amusement (the doctor's wife, at least until ... well, read it for yourselves!), depending on how much the book skewered them. And the peace in the village of Silverstream is indeed highly disturbed.

It even gets a little meta, as art imitates life imitates art. In Miss Buncle's book, a mysterious boy piper passes through town and his pipe inspires the townspeople to various acts of passion and adventure. Colonel Weatherhead reads the book and, vaguely inspired by Major Waterfoot's dashing and romantic proposal to Mrs. Mildmay, visits his friend, the widowed Mrs. Bold, and suddenly finds himself proposing marriage to her ... and then tries to make sure she doesn't read the book, or talk too much to anyone who has, before he sweeps her away, for fear that she might change her mind when she realizes where his motivation came from. And so it goes. Meanwhile, Barbara Buncle is trying to write a sequel, while nervously hiding her authorship of Disturber of the Peace from all of her irate neighbors, and is going through a bit of a Cinderella experience in her own life.

Miss Buncle's Book is often hilarious and completely delightful. It's a great retro read, highly recommended if you like books that are just a little old-fashioned.
Profile Image for Melindam.
633 reviews275 followers
December 17, 2022
"Mr Abbott had never before read a novel about a woman who wrote a novel about a woman who wrote a novel – it was like a recurring decimal, he thought, or perhaps even more like a perspective of mirrors such as tailors use, in which the woman and her novel were reflected back and forth to infinity."

10 STARS or possibly more!

This was the first book I read by D.E. Stevenson and it is PERFECTION. The enormous satisfaction / entertainment value was the same on reading it for the 2nd time.

It gave me the curious feeling that I am reading about Jane Austen in the 1930s.

The Background:
There is a village called Silverstream in the summer of 1934. Its residents go about their daily lives, unsuspecting that soon it will all be turned upside down by something seemingly as innocuous as a freshly published book, even though it's called 'Disturber of the Peace'. And their peace is disturbed all right, as its first readers in the village are shocked to find themselves depicted to the letter with all their little or not-so-little secrets disclosed.
They are even more appalled to find out about the possible future the author has in store for them. Then the hunt for the mysterious author begins, egged on by the vengeful & almost hysterical Mrs Featherstone-Hoggs (social leader, mover & shaker of the village, very unhappy about her past as chorus girl revealed). They only know that the author must be living in their midst.
And so she does. It is none other than Miss Barbara Buncle, impoverished and overlooked, 30-something gentle spinster of Silverstream with no imagination, but a lot of unpaid bills and the latter prompts her to get by as a woman in her position may do. Of course, she had no more idea of the snowball-effect the book would have on all their lives than the villagers themselves did.
PLUS, there are some further disconcerting events. Namely that most of the imaginary endings (marriage, travel, bigamous affair) for some of the very genuine people start to come true, while others -to avoid possible conclusions hinted at in the book (a ghost rising, a wife leaving her bullying husband) - decide upon mending their ways.

"She was such a queer mixture of simplicity and subtlety (at least he thought she was). She spoke bad grammar and wrote good English. She was meticulously truthful in all she said (it was almost as if she were on oath to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth all day long and every day of the week). She lived her solitary life amongst all those people, with her tremendous secret locked up in her breast; going about amongst them looking as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, but taking careful note of all they said and did, and then going quietly home and writing it all down. They were after her now like a pack of hounds, but they didn’t know that the fox was in the very midst of them, under their very noses, disguised as one of themselves – it was a piquant situation and Mr Abbott fully appreciated it."

'Here’s this horrible little village, full of its own affairs and its own importance, all puffed up and smug and conventional and satisfied with itself, and then suddenly their eyes are opened and their shackles fall off and they act according to their real natures. They’re not shams any more, they’re real. It’s simply marvellous,’

The book is original, charming and lovely - it is heart-warming and totally hilarious at the same time with superb characterisation that comes close to that of Jane Austen and I cannot give a higher praise than that.

Thank you so much Carolyn for recommending it.
Profile Image for Mir.
4,862 reviews5,007 followers
November 29, 2014

I loved Miss Buncle. I loved Miss Buncle's Book*. I loved Miss Buncle's book. I loved the book within Miss Buncle's book.

Barbara Buncle is in serious need to some income to support herself and her elderly nurse. What's a genteel spinster to do when she has no skills and women don't get jobs? Write a book? Keep chickens? She hates chickens! A book it is, then.

Having, by her own assessment, no imagination, Miss Buncle decides to simply record the daily life of her small town, changing her neighbors' names but otherwise portraying them faithfully. Hey, what's the chance of any of them ever reading it, right? To make it more interesting, she adds in some adventures, romances and travels for people she likes and punishments and embarrassments for those she doesn't (desertion for the local abusive husband, for instance).

But Barbara Buncle is a better writer than she gives herself credit for, and soon her "novel" is a best-seller! Half the town is up in arms, and everyone wants to know who the culprit is. Meek and dowdy Miss Buncle doesn't occur to anyone as a suspect, but how long can she keep her secret?

This is Stevenson at her best, funny and satirical and kind. This was the first book of hers I'd read and it was far cleverer and more humorous than I expected. And despite being very approachable, the prose is also amazingly controlled. Stevenson can be very subtle. Miss Buncle is more observant than she herself is aware, and the gap between the things she writes and says and her understanding of their implications provides some of the funniest and most insightful moments.

For instance, it's never totally clear whether Barbara doesn't realize her two "spinster" neighbors are lesbians, or doesn't realize that other people will disapprove of them when she accidentally outs them. Stevenson clearly has no problem with lesbianism (they get to vacation in Egypt! In trousers!), which was a little surprising to me in a book written for middle class women of the 1930s. I especially liked that one lesbian and the married doctor who were childhood best friends are still friends and hang out talking about their relationships.

Stevenson is also very kind to her less, um, intellectually gifted characters. The Major, for instance, has no introspection, can hardly follow a conversation, and thinks in cliches. Many authors would make him a stock character, a buffoon and probably a bigot, but just when the reader is judging him (man, what an idiot!) Stevenson gently points out that he is also one of the kinder and more decent people in town. Do the stupid and simple deserve happiness any less? Let him have his happy ending, even if it is a maudlin one.

Stevenson is very charitable: few of her unsympathetic characters are irremediably bad. Some of them just need a wake up call. Where the inexperienced Miss Buncle takes pleasure in giving her characters what she thinks they deserve, Stevenson gives hers what they need.

*Except for the cover. In addition to being hideous, um, the main character is supposed to be 32. I understand that 32 used to be considered an "old maid" but that doesn't mean she looked 65!
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,145 followers
July 8, 2022
Immensely soothing 30s novel about a woman of no importance who writes a roman a clef about her English village, causing total mayhem but also significant improvements. One of those books you just hide in for a while.

Of note, the lesbian couple who are clearly stated as such, accepted and liked by everyone in the village except the bad guys, and given a very cheery HEA. Just a reminder that the 'historical accuracy demands that queerness always equals doom' crowd are factually wrong as well as jerks.
Profile Image for Beverly.
807 reviews292 followers
June 4, 2019
Miss Buncle's Book is wise, funny and sweet. It's the story of a middle aged lady who needs money and decided to write a book. She has no imagination, so she writes about what she knows, the people in her small, English village. Those who are kind and decent get treated well, those who are venal, unkind and obnoxious get their comeuppance in her story.

Of course, the book is accepted and published and when it comes out, her nasty neighbors are not amused and want the anonymous author's head on a platter. There is talk of horse whipping! I loved this social satire very much. It reminded me of the lovely book, Cold Comfort Farm which is a gentle satire against books like Tess of the d'Hurbervilles. There is a movie too along the same lines called Sitting Pretty which also revolves around a book being written about a neighborhood and it's nosy, nasty neighbors which is witty and quite fun.
Profile Image for Tania.
755 reviews67 followers
April 13, 2023
An utterly Charming, and delightful story of village life. It's a really easy read (just what I needed after a cold), but it's not until you get to the end that you realise just how clever it is, like looking into a hall of mirrors, a book, within a book, within a book, and so on, until it all ties together beautifully.

Miss Buncle is a spinster in rather desperate need of money as her dividends are no longer paying out. She isn't keen on the idea of chickens or paying guests so she settles on a book. Having no imagination, she writes about all the people in her village. To her surprise, the book gets published and that's when the cat really gets among the pigeons. What ensues is at times hilarious as the inhabitants try to find out who the author of this "filth" is.

Re-read 13/04/23. Still 5*.
Profile Image for Hilary .
2,237 reviews398 followers
February 15, 2022
When Miss Buncle writes a story about the village she lives in she has overlooked what might happen if it is published. Being a quiet and unconfident person she doesn't really expect it will but soon it becomes a best seller much to the anger of those that inspired the characters. this element provides so much amusement throughout the book.

Barbara Buncle is very amusing to listen to although she doesn't realise it. The story portrays her as quiet, unassuming and oblivious to others in some ways and an acute observer in others which made an interesting mix. I enjoyed her many philosophical thoughts greatly, whilst listening to the vicar give a sermon she muses

It was all about loving your neighbour, and how you must seek out the good in people and only see the good. Mr Hathaway (the vicar) said that the way to make people good- by refusing to see the evil. Barbara wondered if this were true, and, if so, how deep it went. If you refused to see the evil in a murderer, did that cure him? Doubtful.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the humour in this story and if you live in a small rural English village you will probably enjoy spotting a few of your neighbours in this book, I spotted quite a few.
Profile Image for Hana.
522 reviews293 followers
September 7, 2015
Miss Buncle's book within a book is pure delight. I found myself smiling at just about every turn of the page. If you enjoy cozy British village tales this will be just your cup of tea. But it's not too sweet--there is enough sharply observant social satire to keep the reader wide awake and enough plot twists so that I was loathe to stop reading even in the midst of a glorious holiday weekend.

Miss Barbara Buncle's dividends have been cut and she is living in her village of Silverstream in a state of genteel poverty. Poor dear. She's the sort of woman, a bit frumpy and past her prime, whom no one really notices. She goes to church and to tea with the local worthies. No one pays attention to her, but Barbara is paying attention to everyone. She is quietly observant in the way many introverts are and when, in desperation, she puts pen to paper to try her hand at writing fiction, the characters who people the village of Silverstream fairly leap into her book. Barbara then has the inspired notion of adding a Pied Piper figure who, midway through her book, turns the village and its inhabitants upside down.

I don't want to spoil the fun by giving away too much, but Barbara Buncle (writing as 'John Smith') finds a publisher and an enthusiastic fan in Mr. Arthur Abbott of Messrs Abbot & Spicer. Mr. Abbott is enchanted with the novel: Was it satire? He was not sure but "It made him chuckle, it kept him glued to his chair til the small hours, it drifted along and he drifted along with it and time was not. It was the characterization, Mr. Abbott decided, that made the book. The people were all so real; every single character was convincing. Every single character breathed the breath of life."

Mr. Abbott's instincts are correct. Miss Buncle (alias John Smith)'s book Disturber of the Peace becomes a runaway best seller and in quiet Silverstream chuckles--and shrieks of outrage--are heard. Who is John Smith? How dare he write such things!

It's all grand fun with a satisfying denouement.

Content rating G: A clean read.
Profile Image for Paul Secor.
548 reviews48 followers
January 11, 2019
Lightweight, yes. BUT Miss Buncle's Book, Disturber of the Peace (the book within the book), and Barbara Buncle herself are completely charming. I found myself chuckling again and again at the humor and truth found in this novel.

I should mention that this was the first Persephone book I've bought and read, and that I was impressed by the presentation. Evidently the covers of Persephone books are uniform in style (at least all of the copies I saw in a local store were) -grey covers with a white bookplate style plate showing the title and author. The books are well bound and use high quality paper. The end papers are beautifully designed - this book had endpapers (and a matching bookmark) from a design by Vanessa Bell.

p. 68 - "Of course they don't know it's me," Barbara said hopefully.
(It was curious, Mr. Abbott thought, that a woman who could write good English should be unable to speak it, he had noticed this little peculiarity of Miss Buncle's before, it amused and intrigued him.)
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 168 books37.5k followers
February 11, 2012
One of my favorite comfort reads of all time. I hope someone will shift it to ebooks so it can be rediscovered.

It's one of those quiet books that take place between the wars in England. Though Jane Austen's name gets wrongly invoked for a lot of fiction about village life, this time I think it's close, for there is a satiric edge to the story of a plain, seemingly boring spinster in a small village who has, without anyone knowing about it, written a book.

To her immense surprise, it gets published. What did she write about? The only thing she knows, the life of her village, in roman a clef form. A mighty tempest arises in this small teapot, and the book turns out to be a catalyst for many lives. Including Miss Buncle's.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,864 reviews371 followers
October 4, 2021
All the stars! I adore Barbara Buncle! I picked up this book this morning, saying “I'm not in the mood for this.” I knew the book was due at the library in four days and determined that 75 pages per day would accomplish it. What was I thinking? I will ALWAYS be in the mood for Miss Barbara Buncle.

Barbara needs money. She has economized, she has considered different schemes, but what she actually does is sit down and write a book. She claims to have no imagination, so she gives the people of her village new names and proceeds to write about them in a very clear-sighted way. She submits her manuscript to the first publisher listed in the phonebook (Abbott & Spicer) and is both shocked and delighted when Mr. Abbott writes, asking “John Smith” to a meeting.

When the book (Disturber of the Peace) is published, the cat is among the pigeons. And the pigeons are (some of them) pretty ruffled. Because people ignore dowdy old Barbara Buncle she has had a front row seat to all the village dramas and people fill her in on all the gossip. She doesn’t need to invent a thing, although she does produce a pied piper who gets some of her neighbours moving! Proposing marriage, threatening divorce, recognizing bad behaviour. Whatever she thinks would be in their best interest.

What Miss Buncle never imagined was that her wishes might be followed and she is ever so pleased that some of their lives improve (and that she can subsequently pay her bills). However she also didn't foresee that some of those with an exaggerated sense of their own dignity would want her punished!

Absolutely charming in the way that Barbara bungles along, comforting the distressed and distressing the comfortable. I thought immediately of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, which also delighted me. I guess I cheer for the older spinsters because I am one. Obviously this is not everyone's cup of tea, but is was definitely mine and I shall read further adventures of Miss Buncle with unadulterated pleasure.
Profile Image for Iris ☾ (dreamer.reads).
444 reviews890 followers
August 5, 2021
Dorothy Emily Stevenson, escritora y novelista, publicó en 1934 el primer tomo de la trilogía de Barbara Buncle «El libro de la señorita Buncle». Sus novelas tienen fama de ser humorísticas, románticas y alegres, un entretenimiento seguro; por ello decidí darle una oportunidad, deseando escapar del drama que es lo que suelo leer habitualmente y qué gran elección ha resultado ser.

La historia se centra en el personaje de Barbara Buncle, una mujer que decide enviar un manuscrito de una novela escrito por ella bajo el seudónimo “John Smith”. Lo hace de esta manera porque cuenta los entresijos de un pueblecito inglés y de sus personajes basándose en los habitantes reales de su alrededor. El libro se publica, es un gran éxito y obviamente todo el mundo tiene algo que decir acerca de este pues causa mucho malestar general.

Esta obra se puede resumir en una sola palabra: agradable; algunos de sus personajes resultan encantadores, otros odiosos pero en general se forma una armonía única y mágica alrededor de ellos. La trama es bastante lineal y quizá previsible pero sin duda no pierde potencial y se disfruta de la misma manera.

Stevenson retrata muy bien la cotidianidad de la vida rural, la tranquilidad que proyecta es sumamente deliciosa y enriquecedora. Su estilo narrativo es fluido, nada pretencioso y alberga en su lenguaje algo maravilloso que resulta adictivo. Todo un acierto para pasar un buen rato lector, amable y cargado de emociones.

En conclusión nos hallamos ante una novela sumamente entretenida, fresca, amena, divertida y que me ha sentado de maravilla leer en verano. Es justamente lo que esperaba, me ha encantado trasladarme a Silverstream, conocer a sus personajes alocados, sabios y tan diferentes entre sí. Una recomendación ideal para esta estación.
Profile Image for Anne .
443 reviews361 followers
July 11, 2020
It's 1930 England and Barbra Buncle is having a hard time making ends meet so she decides to write a book to make a little money. What could be so hard about that? Well, for Miss Buncle, it turns out to be very simple. As she explains to her delighted editor when asked how she came up with the idea for her brilliant book she explains, "I have no imagination so I write about what I know." What she knows best is the town in which she has lived for decades and all of it's inhabitants. The book gets published and the fun and delight ensues (for the reader of this book) as we watch the various townspeople easily recognizing themselves in the book because the naive Miss Buncle didn't think to disguise anyone. There are varied reactions to the book from delight to laughter to rage. I'll say no more so as not to spoil the fun.

If you are looking for a light, comfort read and you like stories about English country life you may want to give this book a try.
Profile Image for Abigail Bok.
Author 4 books191 followers
April 22, 2018
If you’re in need of taking a nice, long soak of a bath in British sentimentality, this is the book for you. D. E. Stevenson’s books in general are at the sweet end of the spectrum, and this is no exception.

Miss Buncle is a not-so-young woman living alone (well, except for her maid, Dorcas, played for humor in that unconsciously classist way British writers of a certain era have of treating menials) in the village of her birth. Her money is drying up—as it is for many of her neighbors—and she has written a novel to rescue herself from poverty. Those of us who work in publishing might seriously question the sanity of anyone trying to escape poverty by writing a novel, but hey, it works for Miss Buncle. (As an aside, noting the different strategies pursued by the various characters to deal with money issues provides an excellent guide to the ethics D. E. Stevenson wishes us to embrace.)

Miss Buncle is a bit of a Wise Fool, so of course she has written about what she knows: all the people in the village. She has set them going doing the things they do in real life, with only a few twists and nudges. So when villagers start to read the book, they immediately recognize themselves and the drawing rooms are in an uproar. Miss Buncle has taken the wise precaution of using a pseudonym, but even so things get mighty uncomfortable for her. People, predictably, love or hate the book to the extent that they are comfortable with themselves. Some try to do the opposite of what their fictional alter egos do; others go along with the course of action laid out for them by the anonymous authoress.

Meanwhile, the publication of the book has wrought some changes in Miss Buncle herself. A little money and some new friends allow her to shed the more limiting aspects of her character and grow a new life. It’s all very gentle and charming and quite funny, if you’re in the mood. The book appears meandering at first but ties together nicely in the end. All in all, an enjoyable respite from the real world.
Profile Image for Leslie.
2,668 reviews202 followers
February 23, 2016

A gently satirical look at English village life in the 1930s. Somewhat of a cross between Angela Thirkell and Peyton Place, I loved Miss Buncle, Silverstream and all the characters in this charming book.
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,940 reviews1,552 followers
August 29, 2016
A recent comment on Sherwood Smith's review of this book brought it to my attention (via GoodReads' odd feed dynamic). With an accolade of "One of my favorite comfort reads of all time." you know I had to check it out. And what a gift that was!

This book is complex and layered with three different levels playing out simultaneously. Which would be cool enough on its own, but it buries all of that under an entertaining style and pitch-perfect characterization that held me firmly in its grasp from beginning to end. I was immediately drawn to Barbara Buncle, but even more so to the village around her and the characters and story playing out on the page. It was charming and witty and bold and I heartily recommend it.

And I think I'll leave it at that. Any more explanation would bury itself under tangents and asides and justifications and really, you're doing yourself a favor experiencing it all on your own. If you find honest characterizations and interesting people depicted with both love and accuracy, you'll find entre into the book . . . and all the reward that offers.
Profile Image for Krista.
424 reviews1,025 followers
September 23, 2022
Charming and wholesome. Would be a great palate cleanser. I laughed out loud a couple times.
Profile Image for Lyuda.
538 reviews133 followers
August 31, 2016
Miss Barbara Buncle, unassuming frumpy-clothed spinster in her mid-to-late thirties, is in a bind- she needs money to support herself and her elderly nanny/turned motherly maid. There are just few respectable ways for an unmarried woman living in a small English village of Silverstream in the 1930s to earn income.

Keeping hens? No, she didn’t like even touching them; they are such fluttery things, aren’t they?

Paying guests? But there is already an establishment in Silverstream.

Writing a book? She doesn’t think her books can be exciting -life in Silverstream is rather dull and I can only write about what I know. At least I can only write about people that I know. I can make them do things, of course.

And, so, she wrote a book under the pseudonym “John Smith”, changed the village and villagers' names and sent the book to the publisher. To her utter astonishment, the book became almost an overnight success and would have far-reaching and unexpected effects on the lives of people of Silverstream, including her own. Never the famous saying “Life imitates art” rang truer.

This is a delightfully clever read that combines old-fashioned charm with perceptiveness, comfort and dry humor. Numerous cast of characters provides plenty of opportunities to explore the pitfalls of pride and the foibles of human nature in a kind of tongue-in-cheek way. Keeping everyone straight is a bit confusing at first but not for long. The characters leap to life, distinguishing themselves in one way or another, and slowly but surely move along this multilayered story.

Pour yourself a cup of tea, make yourself comfortable and enjoy the book!

First published in 1934, the book was recently republished in e-format by the Estate of D. E. Stevenson. Dorothy Emily Stevenson (1892-1973) was a popular Scottish author of more than 40 novels. Her father was first cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson.

And about the book cover. I’m glad the newly published editions changed the cover from what it was in 1982 hardcover edition. The main character depicted on that edition looks like a woman in her late-sixties and not our much younger heroine.
Profile Image for JimZ.
1,022 reviews461 followers
August 5, 2021
This started out as a 5-star book for me ( 😊 ) but then it progressively faded down to 3. 😐 Oh well, I’m glad I read it. 🙃

The first 100 pages just flew by. Such a pleasure to read the fun story. But then it slowed down and tended to be same-old same-old and by the end I was sorta glad it was over and done with.

The story line was simple: a quiet nondescript person in a small town, Barbara Buncle, writes a book, and gets it published, about people living in a small village and she models her characters after the actual village people she is living with. And then later on in her book she presents a fantasy-land scenario where the different characters do things that are somewhat out of character for them but in which they derive a good deal of satisfaction. For example, in the book Major Waterfoot might propose marriage to a neighbor he secretly is fond of. In reality, the very real Colonel Weatherhead from the village reads the book, and enjoys it mightily, and not even aware that Major Waterfoot is a caricature of him in the book, has the smashing idea to propose marriage to a neighbor, Dorothea Bold. That’s an act something a bit out of character for him but the end result (Dorothea accepts) makes them both quite happy. But some people in the village are up in arms because they don’t like the way they are characterized. It’s a humorous book…nothing really dark here. A fun read.

I thought the story line was clever. It was just too long (332 pages) for my tastes, that’s all.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
318 reviews72 followers
April 7, 2009
If I had a list for books that was labeled simply "charming," Miss Buncle's Book would certainly top the list. A thoroughly charming book from start to finish.

Barbara Buncle's dividends are down and finances are getting tight. Realizing that she must do something to bring in more income she briefly considers keeping hens or taking in boarders but neither seem very appealing. After a comment from her maid, Miss Buncle decides to write a book. The only problem is that she is not a writer and does not know how to write about things she does not know. Miss Buncle's quiet little English village of Silverstream is therefor turned into the village of Cooperfield and the residents of Silverstream become thinly veiled characters in Miss Buncle's book, Disturber of the Peace.

Published under the name of John Smith, Miss Buncle's book becomes a best seller but there is an uproar in Silverstream as the residents recognize themselves and a fair share of their faults in the book. An array of humorous characters join forces to discover who the real John Smith is and make him or her pay for the terrible slander that has been committed against them. While the finger is pointed at many local residents no one even considers that frumpy ol' Miss Buncle could have ever had the ability to pull this book off.

Have I mentioned that I was completely charmed with this book? Oh, I did? Well it bears saying again. This book was just plain fun to read. Filled with delightful characters that had me snickering at times and laughing out loud at other times. There are a lot of characters and the book within a book idea could have gotten messy and confusing but it thankfully didn't.

Can I say it again? Charming and delightful!
Profile Image for Idarah.
464 reviews48 followers
May 23, 2023
I sit here deep in thought after finishing this little surprise-nougat filled-chocolate of a book. What Christopher Nolan did for Inception and Satoshi Kon for Paprika is here encapsulated in a cozy little read about life in a small English town during the 30s.

Mr. Abbott, one of many secondary characters in the novel, sums it up pretty accurately:"Mr. Abbott had never before read a novel about a woman who wrote a novel about a woman who wrote a novel—it was like a recurring decimal, he thought, or perhaps even more like a perspective of mirrors such as tailors use, in which the woman and her novel were reflected back and forth to infinity. It made your brain reel if you pursued the thought too far, but there was no need to do so, unless you wanted to, of course."

Well, yeah. I definitely do, Mr. Abbott...I did. And I loved it! On to the next in the series!
Profile Image for Tweety.
433 reviews198 followers
March 20, 2015
4 1/2

This was such a funny book within a book!

Barbara Buncle is a quiet, unobtrusive spinster who lives in Silversteam. To all accounts she is a bit of a, shall we say… an imbecile. (this is the opinion of the villagers not the reader) She has awful grammar, frumpy clothes and a worn house. She needs money desperately. If she can't make some somewhere she will be in a terrible fix. Shy, good natured Barabra is in a quandary as to how to get this money, after all, what can she do?

That's when Barbara's pen comes in handy. She may sound dull, but her mind is sharp as a tack and she puts it to good use. Now she looks at everything and everyone with new eyes; nothing goes unnoticed. Not even sly Mrs. Greensleeves overtures on the Reverend.

That's when inspiration strikes and Miss Barbara Buncle decides to write a book, all about Silversteam. Only, she can't possibly call it Silversteam, what would the residents say? Most would not like the way they are portrayed. So to solve that little dilemma she changes the name to Copperfield, and everyone's names along with it.

Then she finishes her book, sends it off and receives a reply that her book has been excepted. Awed by this Miss. Buncle can hardly believe it, not even when the publisher wishes to see her.

Mr. Arthur Abbot doesn't know what to make of Miss. Buncle, she appears so simple, and yet her book is climbing the charts! What he can't figure out is whether she is writing this book as she sees things or sardonically.

When the Villagers read it they are aghast to see themselves pictured as they are. Who is this John Smith that wrote all about them and their follies in The Disturber of Peace? The busybodies of the town are off to find out. So begins the humorous comedy that swirls around Barbara Buncle and Silversteam.

What I loved: The characters were lovable, funny and real to life. (no, they weren't all lovable, but most were) The story was fairly fast and the switch between Silversteam and Copperfield was refreshing. I'd recommend this to about everyone! It's not only worth reading but, it's also worth the reread. And that ending! The ending was probably my favorite part about this book, I wouldn't have seen it coming in a million years

What I didn't care for: The beginning I found easy to put down, I still liked it, it just didn't grab me at first. Other than that I loved it.

A G rating fits this, there wasn't much language, there was one paragraph were a maid read some tea leaves, (I didn't like that but white-out fixes all abhorrences), and it is suggested that a couple is lesbian. Other then that there is nothing to insult anyone, unless you see yourself in a character…
Profile Image for Veronique.
1,234 reviews169 followers
February 9, 2022
4.5* Re-read for The Comfort Book Club

Miss Buncle’s Book is an easy read, very immersive, and I lost myself only too readily in the village life of Silverstream/Copperfield. The story is simple and yet... Stevenson succeeds in creating various plot lines that she intertwines with great dexterity and humour. The narration follows one person after another, dipping in their thoughts and witnessing their actions. The tone is often satirical but in a gentle fashion.

Her characters are so well drawn, warts and all, that I couldn’t resist liking them all. There is some stereotyping but it never feels gratuitous. As for the dialogues, they are skilfully put together while keeping a deceptively ‘simple’ style, and combine comedy with insight. It is charming but not devoid of ‘bite’.

She explained, somewhat incoherently, that the character of Mrs Horsley Downs was a horrible character and not in the least like her, but that it was obviously intended for her, because it was exactly like her, and that therefore it was liable and as such ought to be punished to the utmost rigour of the law.

The other aspect I loved is that this is a book about “a woman writing a novel about a woman writing a novel”. The endless play on mirrors and reflections between the characters in both iterations is hilarious and ever so entertaining.
Profile Image for Dominika.
89 reviews11 followers
April 1, 2023
Absolutely delightful. I've been meaning to read this for ages and it lived up to all my expectations.
Profile Image for Antoinette.
755 reviews40 followers
April 2, 2023
How many words can I find to describe this book? It is charming, delightful, funny, witty and an absolute treasure.
Miss Buncle has written a book under the pseudonym John Smith. It is totally based on the people in the village in which she lives. Of course, when the neighbours read the book, an uproar arises. They don’t like to be seen as anything but perfect. What occurs from this point is hilarious.

If you are looking for a fun , light read that hits that sweet spot in your heart, then this is the book!

Published: 1934
Profile Image for Gretchen Rubin.
Author 42 books89.2k followers
September 16, 2022
Absolutely delightful, a light story where good is rewarded and bad is punished or improved. It reminded me of Streatfeild (see above). I plan to read more by Stevenson.
Profile Image for Betsy Robinson.
Author 9 books1,041 followers
April 4, 2019
Because she needs money, Miss Barbara Buncle writes a novel exposing all the people in her small town of Silverstream.

What absolute fun is this book, published in 1934, about a writer writing. Not much has changed in human and writer nature, and that makes this cozy novel retain its edge. It’s a light, fun read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it and learning that its Scottish author, D. E. (Dorothy Emily) Stevenson (1892–1973), had an enormously successful (and lucrative) writing career, despite her parents’ disapproval of her efforts; she sold four million books in Britain and three million in the States. And I adore the fact that she talks about finances honestly.
Profile Image for Amy.
2,578 reviews402 followers
March 23, 2020
Miss Buncle's Book feels exactly like the literary version of a giant cup of tea on a rainy day. It is cozy, soothing, and absolutely delicious. I've quite lost my heart to it!
The book has a timeless quality to it that for a while left me thinking I'd picked up recently popular historical fiction. I was stunned to find it was written 1934! Of course, that explains some things, like the ending which I did not absolutely love. But it also just adds to the overall charm.
I went in skeptical of the frumpy, middle aged heroine who did not strike me as a great subject for Romance and am leaving eager to get my hands on the next book. I am equally delighted to see my library has quite a collection of D.E. Stevenson's books...might be time to plunge into a new author.
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