Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson -- Historical Fiction

Miss Barbara Buncle is a poor spinster living in the English country village of Silverstream where nothing ever happens and nothing ever will. When the Depression comes to Silverstream, Miss Buncle has to do something to earn money so she takes up her pen to write a book. She pens a novel about Silverstream and the inhabitants of the town. A London publisher, Mr. Arthur Abbott, loves the book so much, he decides to publish it. He can't decide if the author is a satirical genius or a simpleton. Either way, the public will eat up the book. Well, the inhabitants of Silverstream do not take kindly to the representations of their true selves in the novel. What's more, they object strongly to the second half of the novel when a golden boy pipes an erotic tune that makes everyone behave in fits of passion. "John Smith," the author of the novel, becomes public enemy #1 in Silverstream. Not everyone finds the novel offensive, but poor Barbara lives in fear of the villagers learning she is the author and of what will happen to her when they find out. Kind, sympathetic Mr. Abbott has the perfect solution. There are so many quirky characters and plot situations in this book and in the fictional counterpart, that it would be impossible to describe them all. The quaint English village is along the lines of Cranford where everyone knows everyone else's business but pretends not to. I found the plot very charming and lots of fun. I couldn't put the book down. I had to know what happened to poor Barbara. My only real problem with this book is that the characters are all stereotypes, especially the women. The book was written in the 1930s when attitudes were different, but I had a hard time accepting the demureness of the women. Some of them have hidden depths and the younger women represent the independence and freedom of the Bright Young Things generation. I highly recommend this book to those of you bluestockings who enjoy Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, BBC period shows and English villages. You don't want to miss this one. 

Miss Buncle Married by D.E. Stevenson -- Historical Fiction

Barbara Buncle is now Barbara Abbott, living in Hamstead Heath with her beloved husband Arthur. Barbara feels stifled by the society they keep and intimidated by the servants. When she learns that Arthur feels the same way, they make immediate plans to move.  However, finding the right place to live is nearly impossible. With their social engagements called off, Arthur gets into a groove and Barbara feels him settling into a routine she isn't comfortable with. She has learned a few things about herself since publishing her first book and learns to stand up for herself. She falls in love with the village of Wandlebury which could appear in a scene from Dickens. Upon her arrival, she's met by a strange solicitor who appears to have mistaken Barbara for someone else. She becomes privy to private information and the solicitor is deeply embarrassed. He  tries to warn Barbara off the house but she falls in love with the place immediately. She sees a cozy home and Arthur sees a dump needing a lot of money pumped into it to make it work. Because he loves his wife, he agrees to buy the house for her and she pays to fix it up. Barbara quickly becomes a part of village life meeting a cast of new quirky characters who would be just perfect for a new "John Smith" book... if she were going to write one, that is... which she's not! The case of mistaken identity comes back to haunt her as her husband's young nephew falls in love with a local girl. Barbara tries to interfere with the romance with good reason and the results are unexpected and quite comical. I didn't find this story as charming as the first. It starts off really slow and I had a hard time getting into it. Once the Abbotts move to Wandlebury, the story gets more interested. The characters are really off-the-wall and this time, the stereotypes are limited to one marriage-hating miserly old lady, three very wild children and an eccentric artist. Towards the end the plot gets funnier, but the predictable and saccharine ending turned me off a bit. I was expecting something a little more funny and off the wall and less of a moral tale. I still enjoyed the book though and would recommend it to Miss Buncle fans.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave comments and or suggestions for QNPoohBear, the modern bluestocking.