My rating: 8/10. A slight work, good for, at most, several evenings’ diversion. I would definitely re-read it after a decent interval, when wanting something “fluff”-ish to take my mind off the frequently depressing nastinesses of the our own 21st century world. Good for what it is – a tale as innocuous and amusing as Miss Buncle’s was intended to be, and not at all “clever”, though, as Miss Buncle herself found, those wishing to project their own imaginations into this simple fairytale could have a field day with hidden meanings, unintended by the author(s), I’m quite certain!
So, after seeing so many enthusiastic reviews of this book (and a few noncommittal “it was okay”s) I did at last manage to track down a library copy. I fall somewhere in between the two camps, but am probably most at home in the “in favour” crowd. I thought the story was light and fun, and I’m going to search out the sequels, Miss Buncle Married and The Two Mrs. Abbots, but I’m in no hurry. Miss Buncle’s Book was pleasant enough but did not trigger a “must own it” compulsive visit to Amazon and ABE, though I did browse through both hoping to strike a bargain. Not much luck there; inter-library loan it shall be, though I was attracted enough to add D.E.Stevenson to my look-for list for used bookstore shelf scanning. In particular a series of stories concerning a certain “Mrs. Tim”, a soldier’s wife, who seems a good sort to get to know by all reports.
Dowdy, almost-40, kind and peace-loving spinster Miss Barbara Buncle, facing financial difficulties as the dividends from her investments shockingly decrease in the post-WW I years, decides to write a book to gain some spending money. Not having “any imagination”, she draws her characters directly from life, changing only tiny details and, of course, their names. (The village Silverstream becomes Copperfield, Mr Fortnum is now Mr. Mason, Colonel Weatherhead becomes Major Waterfoot, Miss Pretty is Miss Darling, and so on, in a game of renaming by association.) As her tale progresses, she sends her “fictional” friends and neighbours off on some surprising adventures, causing much consternation when the inhabitants of Miss Buncle’s village eventually read the book and recognize themselves.
As the real-life inhabitants of Silverstream-Copperfield meet to decry the parody, and to discover and expose the Judas in their midst, they continually pass over innocuous Miss Buncle, even after she drops broad hints and, in a fit of conscience, even confesses to an unbelieving set of ears. For how could silly Barbara Buncle write even a borrowed epic? She’s not nearly clever enough…
The worm turns with a (mild) vengeance, and Miss Buncle gets the last laugh, as her life takes an unexpecteded turn due to her literary efforts.