Miss Buncle’s Book saves the day

Endpapers taken from a design by Vanessa Bell used in Miss Buncle’s Book published by Persephone Books

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.


17 thoughts on “Miss Buncle’s Book saves the day

  1. Oh, I cannot tell you how much the image of you in a hotel room in NYC, overlooking the Empire State Building, reading Miss Buncle's Book both warms my heart and makes me green with envy!I love the title 🙂

  2. Hehehehe I got my arm trapped in that lift so many times – it's all part of the Hotel 31 'experience'!What a fantastic post – I have Miss Buncle's Book on my pile – desperately want to read it now. I'm reading House-Bound and you will like it so read that next.

  3. I love the image of Miss Buncle, NYC hotels, and the Empire State building, too. Relaxing with a Persephone is the perfect way to end a busy day in The City! Great review.

  4. What a lovely lovely memory – I love the way books go with you, and having a little bit of England with you on an unexpectedly solo trip to New York is juts brilliant. The book sounds really good, too. I love Persephone! Must post about Persephone week.

  5. Miss Buncle's Book is one of the only DE Stevenson books I've read, and I thought it was charming! I need to read more of her work. Hopefully Persephone will get on that.

  6. This sounds charming! I only wish your hotel had been so appealing to you. 🙂 You've added another to my list. This week is such a dangerous proposition to those of us with bookish acquisitive natures. Lovely post!

  7. What a lovely way to read this book (one of my very favorite Persephones), and to carry a bit of home about with you while in a strange city. I keep hoping Persephone or someone else will publish the sequel!

  8. What an absolutely lovely review – really touching and wonderful to read. Glad that you enjoyed the book. I have just got back to the UK and received The Book and the Brotherhood – thank you! I have linked to you on my latest post. Enjoy Persephone Reading weekHannah

  9. Doesn't House-Bound sound like a terrific read?! These Persephone Reading Weeks are killers on the pocketbook as my list keeps growing…but do I mind, no way.Great review, Naomi, this one is languishing on my shelf but I take comfort in knowing it's there. Enjoy your day!

  10. Thank you for all your kind comments! I really realised how books can act as a comfort blanket no matter where you are or what you are doing. New York was amazing but it was nice to return to a book which was sheer escapism and a book which was so evocative of home.PS. Bookish NYC – your office sounds amazing!

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