Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson is the first Persephone I've read this year and what a fabulous one it is. This is one of those perfectly unique stories because it's a book within a book.
Barbara Buncle, a fortyish awkward spinster is suddenly encountering some money troubles and decides to write a book to supplement her income. Claiming she's unimaginative, she writes about the things she knows which are mainly the people in her small village of Silverstream. She changes the village name to Copperfield and renames all her neighbors. However, she describes them exactly as they are up to the infinitesimal details, even mentioning the wig and false teeth that Mrs.Carter wears and the number of hairs on the facial mole of Ms.King. The book becomes a bestseller and it doesn't take long for most of the villagers to spot themselves in the narrative. Infuriated, they determine to discover the identity of the writer who calls himself 'John Smith' never suspecting that it's just Miss Buncle.
(a photo of D.E. Stevenson from the Persephone Post)
I thought this book was a lot of fun and very endearing. Miss Buncle, though considered an idiot by her neighbors is in truth a smart and kind woman who also finds love in the novel. A charming, whimsical and easy read perfect for a holiday or a rainy day. Many people have compared it to the Persephone Classic Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day but I actually enjoyed this one so much more and I'd love to read the sequels if only they were readily available.
D.E. Stevenson is a largely forgotten Scottish author who had a very successful writing career between 1923 and 1970. She wrote 45 novels most of them bestsellers in the United States and the UK. Last year saw the rerelease of two of her novels, Miss Buncle's Book from Persephone and Miss Tim of the Regiment from Bloomsbury. Miss Buncle's Book is currently one of the top ten bestsellers at Persephone.
If you have read the book, check out this hilarious link showing what it would be like if the characters of Miss Buncle's Book were all in Facebook or in this case, Bunclebook. (Click here). There's spoilers there so if you haven't read the novel, then check out Austenbook by DeeDee Baldwin instead.