D.E. Stevenson: Miss Buncle’s Book


Next to the Golden Age mystery writers, another group of seemingly long-forgotten writers who seem to be experiencing a mini-renaissance in recent yeas are the women writers of the interwar years — Winifred Holtby, Angela Thirkell, Stella Gibbons, Dorothy Whipple, Mollie Panter-Downes, Miss Read, and, well, D.E. Stevenson are all seeing a renaissance of their books, and that’s not even mentioning modern women authors such as Helen Simonson who are setting their books in that period and (like Holtby, Thirkell, Gibbons, Miss Read, and Stevenson) in rural English environments. So I guess after having sampled Holtby’s and Thirkell’s writings — and determined that Gibbons is not for me –, it was only a matter of time before I’d also meet D.E. Stevenson’s Miss Barbara Buncle. (And, yes, books by the other aforementioned ladies are on my TBR as well.)

As village satires go, Mis Buncle’s Book is definitely on the enjoyable side: incisive, humorous, and a well-observed send-up of interwar English rural life and society. I could have done with a wrinkle or two less — also, there is one particular narrative strand (concerning the abduction of the village doctor’s toddler son) that I felt was left dangling, and the unraveling at the end is both a bit protracted and, given its overall length, awfully nice, conflict-less and pat — but by and large this is another fun and easy-to-read example of this particular type of book, and I can see myself exploring D.E. Stevenson’s back catalogue a bit further, whether with Barbara Buncle’s next adventures or (perhaps more likely, the way I’m feeling at present) with another one of the author’s books.

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