My rating: 6/10.
Readable enough, with a few reasonably memorable moments, but not quite up to the original Miss Buncle’s Book to which this is the sequel. Definitely recommended to those who enjoyed the first Miss Buncle book, and anyone who’s a D.E. Stevenson aficionado, but perhaps not the best place to start with this author. As I explore her works – she’s a very new author to me – I am struck by the wide variance in quality of her plots and prose.
And now for something completely different!
The literary hoopla of Canada Reads 2013 is just over, and my tolerance for angsty Canadiana has been tested fairly stringently. Ending up rather unexpectedly “on the road” for several days this week, I grabbed, on my way out the door, something much more in the way of “light” reading than the sincere Canada Reads candidates: Miss Buncle Married, by D.E. Stevenson.
I had ordered this one, along with Miss Buncle’s Book, and Mrs. Tim of the Regiment, from Book Closeouts just after Christmas, with some of my Christmas “buy yourself a nice book” money. I’d opened the box, briefly admired the crisp new softcovers – that lovely “new book smell”, and the physical pleasure of handling crisp, clean and unworn pages – a very different pleasure from that of handling older books with their unknown histories and traces of prior readers – signatures on the flyleaf, dog-eared pages, marginal notes, the odd old letter, business card, receipt etc. used as a bookmark – now wouldn’t that make a grand post? – the things found in secondhand books!
Oi! I’ve gone completely off track. What was I posting about? Ah, yes. Miss Buncle Married. So, what I started out to say was that D.E. Stevenson was again at the forefront of my awareness, after my recent windfall of a lovely stack of her vintage paperbacks, and after sharing that news of my good luck with my husband, and pressing Mrs. Tim upon him as a “try this author, she’s rather amusing” recommendation, Miss Buncle seemed a logical choice for a light diversion for hotel room reading.
I haven’t yet had a chance to read the first Mrs. Tim myself, though I did read and enjoy one of the follow-up books to that one some time ago, Golden Days: Further Leaves from Mrs. Tim’s Journal, so I’m interested to see what my husband’s reaction will be. I suspect he’ll return a tactful “it was all right”, which, I regret to report, is all that I’m I’m able to give to my own D.E. Stevenson of the moment.
Miss Buncle Married was merely “all right”. It certainly wasn’t an improvement on the original. And though my expectations weren’t terribly inflated, as Miss Buncle’s Book was a pleasant diversionary read and not much more, I was disappointed at how slight this next one turned out to be, despite its hefty 330 pages of physical presence.
Middle-aged (“nearing forty”) though perpetually young-at-heart (in other words, slightly gauche and secretly insecure) Miss Barbara Buncle, after her unexpected success as an author, has married her publisher, Mr. Arthur Abbott. Though the two are deeply in love, and the married state is most satisfactory to both of them, there are thorns becoming most evident in the rose garden of their new life together. An active round of teas, dinners and bridge parties has become the norm, and peaceful evenings by their own fire are few and far between. Neither Barbara nor Arthur want to say anything, each believing the other to be well suited with the social whirl, and, when the penny drops, the two decide that the only thing to do is to move house, to a fresh location, where they can establish themselves anew in a more congenial lifestyle.
After much to-ing and fro-ing, Barbara finds a lovely though exceedingly rundown house in the village of Wandlebury, and she occupies herself for months with the restoration of Archway House and the creation of the ideal habitat for herself and her beloved Arthur. In the meantime, she becomes deeply enmeshed in local happenings. She inadvertently becomes privy to the will of the village’s most wealthy woman, makes friends with the outspoken artist next door and his precocious children, and meets a kindred spirit in the person of young Jeronina Cobbe, the potential recipient, all unbeknownst to her and everyone else except for Barbara and the local lawyers, of the riches to be distributed in the aforementioned will.
There are, of course, numerous twists and turns to the narrative before everyone ends up in a state of bliss, with all dilemmas nicely straightened out, and much optimism for the future.
I felt that Miss Buncle Married started out quite strongly, with much promise, and sadly faded as it went along. It settled into a predictable and very clichéd romance involving Jeronina – Jerry – and Arthur Abbott’s nephew Sam, with every development of their courtship and romantic setbacks telegraphed loud and clear.
Not a bad book, but definitely not as wonderful as it might have been. D.E. Stevenson has her moments of brilliance, but in this case those ran out early on.
I am wondering what the third book in the Miss Buncle saga, The Two Mrs. Abbotts, will be like. Though not eagerly awaiting it, I do look forward to acquiring it at some point once it becomes available, as I hear that it is due to be re-released in softcover by Sourcebooks in 2014.
And here, from Shelf Love, is a much more thoughtful review than my rather scatterbrained assessment – I plead lack of sleep during this very hectic week – of Miss Buncle Married: