When Barbara Buncle finds herself short of money she dismisses the idea of keeping hens and decides to write a book instead. Not having much imagination she finds she can only write about people and places that she knows. Drawing her inspiration from her friends and neighbours in the village of Silverstream, she writes her first novel and has it published under the pseudonym of John Smith. When Disturber of the Peace turns out to be much more successful than Miss Buncle could ever have dreamed, it’s inevitable that the residents of Silverstream will eventually read it and recognise themselves within its pages. But how will they feel about the way they are represented in the book and what will happen if they discover who John Smith really is?
Delightful, charming, warm, cosy – those are the type of words I would use to describe Miss Buncle’s Book. Written in the 1930s, D.E. Stevenson captures perfectly the atmosphere of life in a small English village at that time – a place where everybody knows everybody else, where freshly baked breakfast rolls are delivered to the villagers every morning, where people meet for tea parties or musical evenings and gossip with the neighbours over the garden fence. The book is filled with a variety of interesting characters, all with their own quirks and eccentricities. Some of the most memorable include the formidable Mrs Featherstone Hogg, who is enraged by the unflattering way she is depicted in Miss Buncle’s book and leads the campaign against John Smith; Mr Hathaway the vicar and the scheming Vivian Greensleeves who has her eyes on his money; and the retired and lonely Colonel Weatherhead who faces a yearly battle with the Bishop.
Most of the inhabitants of Silverstream make an appearance in Disturber of the Peace and although Barbara Buncle takes the precaution of changing their names (Weatherhead becomes Waterfoot, for example, Miss King and Miss Pretty are renamed Miss Earle and Miss Darling, and Mr Fortnum becomes Mr Mason), she describes their personalities so accurately it’s not surprising that they were able to work out who the book was about! It was fun to see how they each reacted to discovering themselves in Miss Buncle’s story and having all their flaws exposed to the world.
I sent a copy of Miss Buncle’s Book to another blogger as a Secret Santa gift a couple of years ago because I thought it sounded wonderful, and when I saw that it was available through Netgalley I couldn’t wait to finally read it for myself. But although I did like it, I didn’t love it as much as I had hoped I would and as much as most other readers seem to have done. It was an enjoyable, relaxing read with lots of gentle humour and old-fashioned charm, but it lacked that special spark that would have lifted it from being a very good book to a great one. For me, this is a book that sounded better than it actually was, though I would still recommend it as a great way to escape from the stress of life for a while!
I received a review copy from Sourcebooks via Netgalley