Friday, 25 February 2011

Miss Buncle's Book

Aah my Persephone Secret Santa. Miss Buncle's Book. Village life and how we show ourselves - in private and in public. There are many characters whom we meet and as a reader we get to see them in both spheres. We think we're showing who we are but are we? We think we're hiding who we really are but are we?

There's silly Mrs Greensleeves
'She was a pretty woman and she liked pretty things. The pink satin quilt, the frilled pillows with their pink silk bows, the breakfast tray with its white cloth and pink china were carefully chosen. Mrs Greensleeves liked to think they expressed her personality, and perhaps they did. Nobody saw her in bed except her maid... but the mirror was adjusted so that she could see herself and she enjoyed the picture.'

The vicar - trying to live just off his stipend however....
'Ernest... had never been poor, and he was not really poor now. This poverty of his... was merely a sort of a game. Sometimes it was a troublesome, worrying sort of game, but there was nothing bitter, and real, and grinding about it.'

Our eponymous heroine Barbara Buncle.

'Barbara got up and had a hot bath. Her new garments had arrived... and Barbara decided to wear one of her new frocks this afternoon. A bath seemed a fitting preliminary to the donning of the slinky, soft wine-coloured creation which lay curled up in its neat brown box all padded out with rustling tissue paper.
When she had bathed, and dressed, and finished doing her hair, Barbara slipped the frock very carefully over her head and turned to look at herself in the long mirror... She was quite startled at the change in her appearance - it was Elizabeth Wade who looked back at her from the quicksilver depths of the mirror (not Barbara Buncle at all).'

A gentle book yet on reflection a whole lot more than meets the eye.


  1. The book was a little slow in gripping me at first but I loved it by the end and didn't want to leave its cosy pages. It was perfect reading for me over Christmas and the New Year and transported me to back to an idealised England. Bliss!
    I totally agree with you... there are depths to this book and I daresay more may be discovered upon re-reading. Some of the characters were expertly portrayed - I'd love to meet them in person and have a good old chinwag over a steaming cup of Earl Grey :-)

  2. I've been loving Stevenson's books since I began reading them in 1967 and am thrilled that they are being reissued now and a new generation is discovering that, as you said, there's more there than meets the eye. There is a yahoo group which has been discussing her books since 1997. You might enjoy it.

  3. Ah, I can so relate to Barbara's feeling like someone else in a new dress. And silly Mrs. Greensleeves, as a former psychology student I have to say there are so many layers of meaning in that passage. The importance of how we see ourselves in private, the picture of ourselves in our imagination that maybe no one else ever gets to see.... I'll have to pick this book up!

  4. As we speak, Miss Buncle is on her way to me via Persephone Books ... I shall invite her in for tea and cake as soon as she arrives!
    Margaret P

  5. I loved this book (sighs blissfully). And Persephone is publishing the sequel in the fall! I need to read more Stevenson. My library actually has several of her other books so I'll have to get to them after I read more Persephones.

  6. I have wanted to read this book for ages. Must get it ready for next Persephone Weekend.

  7. Such a fabulous book - can't wait for the sequel! A lovely Persephone Secret Santa gift too.

  8. I enjoyed the little glimpses inside Miss Buncle's Book and its characters - you have me feeling compelled to pick up my own (unread) copy and immerse myself in it!

    Happy Persephone Reading Week, Rachel. Enjoy.

  9. I've heard so much wonderful things about this. Sounds wonderful1!!!

  10. Cristina - I read it over Christmas/New Year too - and it was perfect the perfect time.
    Kristi - it was my first DE Stevenson and I have one waiting on my tbr pile...
    hip hip - I didn't know you were a former psychology student. Oh and how a new dress can make you feel.
    Margaret P - ooh hope you enjoy it when it arrives.
    Karen - I didn't know there was a sequel to it. That can be my read next Christmas!
    Vivienne - oh it's lovely planning one's reads for the next one isn't it.
    Rambling fancy - yes it was a great gift.
    Paperback Reader - If I see a woman reading it on the train I shal know it's you!
    Rebecca - it is wonderful.

  11. Miss Buncle slipped neatly through the letter box yesterday and I'm now reading her! What fun!
    Really enjoying the whimsy of this book, I shall certainly search out for more D E Stevenson - one of my late mother's favourite authors. Help, I'm turning into my mother!
    Margaret P

  12. I, too, have heard wonderful things about this book. I am glad you enjoyed it.

  13. The Miss Buncle books are a trilogy, with a loosely connected 4th title.

    The Miss Buncle's are my favourite DES books.

    Miss Buncle's Book
    Miss Buncle Married
    The Two Mrs Abbotts

    The Four Graces

  14. This sounds like my perfect read. I need to get my hands on a copy!


Ooh how lovely more stripes on the page...
Thank you for taking the time.