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Miss Buncle’s Book

by DE Stevenson
Persephone book no:

80 81 82

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A Well Full of Leaves
Regular price £14.00
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£0.00 Unit price per

ISBN 9781903155714

The storyline of Miss Buncle's Book (1934) is a simple one: Barbara Buncle, who is unmarried and perhaps in her late 30s, lives in a small village and writes a novel about it in order to try and supplement her meagre income. In this respect she is at one with Miss Pettigrew and Miss Ranskill, two other unmarried women who, not having subsumed their existence into that of a man, have to find a way of looking after themselves. There are some serious moments, for example when the doctor’s children are, very briefly, kidnapped (as a way of trying to force their mother to admit that she wrote the book; which she did not). But the seriousness is minimal – mostly this is an entirely light-hearted, easy read, one of those books like Mariana, Miss Pettigrew, The Making of a Marchioness and Greenery Street which can be recommended unreservedly to anyone looking for something undemanding, fun and absorbing that is also well-written and intelligent.

DE 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 EF Benson, Ann Bridge, O Douglas or Dorothy L Sayers (to name but a few) her books are funny, intensely readable, engaging and dependable. Miss Buncle’s Book was the most popular of her novels because it has a completely original plot and a charming and delightful central character.

There is another reason for DE Stevenson’s appeal, as Aline Templeton points out in her Preface to the book: ‘Oscar Wilde’s Miss Prism, asked about her lost three-volume novel, explained, “The good ended happily and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.” Perhaps part of the attraction is that in DE Stevenson’s novels these rules comfortingly still apply.’ Or, as her granddaughter Wendy, who still lives in DE Stevenson’s home town of Moffat, puts it: the novels are ‘a soothing balm’ at times of stress and exhaustion.

Also available as a Persephone Classic and a Persephone e-book


'Flower vase lit by rays from a table lamp', Vanessa Bell 1934, Allan Walton, V&A

Picture Caption

The Felixstowe to Ipswich Coach. 1940 by Russell Sidney Reeve (1895-1970) © Ipswich Borough Council Museum and Gallery/PCF

Read What Readers Say

Lee Randall, ‘The Scotsman’

Great entertainment, a bit like "reading" an episode of ITV's Miss Marple.

‘Backlisted’ podcast

I found this so incredibly enjoyable. It’s just the most fun reading. The prose is really, really good, it’s light, it’s funny, it’s factually accurate… Also there’s real proper humanity here - the doctor’s wife’s post-natal depression and how her husband nearly lost her; an abusive husband. And it was a surprise to see a very chilled approach to a same-sex relationship with the fascinating and not-judged lesbian couple: the books are repositories of female experience in the era in which they are written but also evidence of marginalisation of the writers who created them. ‘Miss Buncle’s Book’ is Trollopian in some ways… it doesn't let anyone off the hook and is in fact dazzlingly clever.

SP, London SE12

Having bought myself a copy of ‘Miss Buncle’s Book’ I kept it for a Christmas treat and read it all the way through on Boxing Day afternoon. I have read it numerous times and it never fails to cheer me up (if necessary) and keep me entertained. Everyone should have a copy of ‘Miss Buncle’ in their present drawer for when they have a friend who needs cheering!

From First Page to Last (blogger)

‘Miss Buncle’s Book’ is a delight from start to finish, so much so that it was only the fact that there are two more books to feature Barbara Buncle that stopped the last page from being bittersweet. It works its magic over the reader and it is a joy to see the effects the book has on the residents of ‘Silverstream’ slowly unfolding. Little does Miss Buncle foresee that the fictional actions she creates will be mirrored in the real lives surrounding her. This is a comedy of manners, a romance, and provides insight into life in a small village and the changing role of women in the 1930s: a warm, all- encompassing, funny book, with characters that shine from the pages. I loved it. Highly recommended.

NJ via Instagram

A wonderful book. The kind of book that you read at lightning pace and which is a real warm, comfort read full of brilliant characters and multiple beautiful love stories. It is also very clever and self-aware of being a book about a book about a book. I loved this novel so much and will be recommending it to everyone. One of the best things I have read this year. I must read the two sequels now…

Categories: Humour Social Comedy

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