Hotels can be isolating, bizarre and frankly surreal. Whilst I was alone in New York I was staying in a pokey little hotel with dark corridors and a really terrifying lift. The shaft had no roof so you could look up through the gap and see the sky. I don’t think that an engineer had been near it since the 1920s and it clanked its way jerkily to my floor at the top of the building. Negotiating the metal sliding door and external heavy door was a real test of strength and skill. If I managed to escape the clutches of one door I could just as easily get squished by the other. I wasn’t very good at it and a cleaner had to (very kindly) show me the trick. Which involved speed and agility – neither of which I have.
My room was clean and had a clear view of the Empire State Building which was really exciting. I was out and about all day so it was a relief to get back to my room and rest my weary legs – the unfamiliar noises of the city and hotel were soon forgotten about as every night I would open Miss Buncle’s Book and lose myself in the little piece of England that I had brought with me.
Miss Barbara Buncle has run out of money so as an enterprising woman she sits down and writes a bestseller – Disturber of the Peace. Barbara Buncle’s book is about a village and it’s inhabitants and is a gripping portrayal of life in Middle England. However, it is not strictly a work of fiction.
Barbara Buncle has spent her whole life in Silverstream, she is considered odd, pitiful and a ‘typical’ spinster. But Barbara Buncle has a gift – she is an astute and insightful observer and has the ability to pierce to the core of the human soul. Her work of ‘fiction’ is more of an account of the people of Silverstream; renamed Copperfield in Disturber of the Peace.
Miss Buncle’s Book portrays English village life at its best. When the peace is disturbed and the mirror has been turned around on to its inhabitants. The characters in Disturber of the Peace are easily recognisable to the inhabitants of Silverstream as they are the characters. For some, this makes for uncomfortable reading as Miss Buncle portrays them warts and all.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this truly English novel as DE Stevenson flays the village open and presents all the stereotypes for us to gawp over and laugh at. But overriding this was the wonderful message that the most overlooked amongst us can achieve the most unexpected of things. Through hard work, perseverance and an iron will Barbara Buncle transformed her life. She strode out and took a risk, in taking that risk she disturbed the peace and found happiness.
The gentle pace and lightheartedness were exactly what I needed to end my days tramping the streets of New York sightseeing. There is no greater comfort than a book to sink into and lose yourself in – especially when it is a book that has been published by Persephone Books.
This week is Persephone Book Reading Week, hosted by Claire at Paperback Reader and Verity at The B Files. The next Persephone I have on my list is House-bound by Winifred Peck which I am really looking forward to and hopefully I will have time to finally read Family Roundabout by Richmal Crompton which has been on my pile of books for an absolute age.