Miss Buncle’s Book by D E Stevenson

A lot of people have been reading and writing about this book recently, so when I saw it sitting next to ‘Mrs Tim’ the other day in my local library I just had to borrow it. I was only supposed to be taking books back and NOT LOOKING – but you know what it’s like.

It’s set in England during the 1930s and people like Barbara Buncle are finding things very hard indeed. Like many genteel people of that time she is living off the small amount of money that the dividends from her inherited investments pay out. Times are hard and consequently the dividends are poor. Paid employment is out of the question, buying hens as an investment is considered and rejected. So Miss Buncle decides to try her hand at writing a book and she uses her own village of Silverstream and most of its inhabitants as ‘copy’.

She sends the resulting book Disturber of the Peace off to the publisher, Abbott and Spicer and Arthur Abbott decides to go ahead and publish. Miss Buncle has been a bit too faithful with her copy, in fact her fictional village Copperfield and its inhabitants are almost a carbon copy of Silverstream and so it isn’t long before the village folks are revolting!

In the second part of Disturber of the Peace, Barbara Buncle decides to (write) right all wrongs by having a ‘golden boy’ walking through the village playing a reed pipe, and when people hear him it makes them do things that they wouldn’t have dreamt of doing before.

In that way Miss Buncle herself takes the part of the golden boy of her book. But the villagers are still clueless as to who the author is and some of them are determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.

The storyline is really clever and the whole thing is very funny, it’s a great comfort read. It was her most successful book although I really liked Mrs Tim too.

D E Stevenson was a cousin of Robert Louis S. and so was part of that famous family of lighthouse builders/engineers. Dorothy called her books her ‘lighthouses’ and I think that they really must have been like that as she was so popular during the dark days of World War II she probably saved quite a lot of people their sanity.

Had she been born a boy she almost certainly would have been a lighthouse engineer/designer, as I believe that R.L. was deemed to be a bit of a failure when he didn’t go into the family business.

Although Miss Buncle’s Book is set in an English village, it wasn’t part of Dorothy’s experience as she lived in Scotland her whole life, moving from Edinburgh to Glasgow when she married and then eventually settling in the Border town of Moffat, where she is buried.

Moffat is certainly a nice wee town, it’s a while since I’ve been there but as I recall it has a statue of a sheep in the middle of it and a shop which sells lovely freshly made vanilla ice-cream.

Next time I go there I’m going to take some photos of the town and look for her grave. I hope the good ice-cream shop is still in business!