Thursday, April 2, 2015

Recent reading: More Miss Buncle from D.E. Stevenson

Over the Christmas holidays, I took pleasure in rediscovering the novels of D.E. Stevenson, which I first enjoyed as a teenager and which, happily, are now starting to be reissued in new editions. I wrote about Stevenson, the chance encounter that got me looking for and reading her books again, and a review of her 1934 novel, "Miss Buncle's Book" -- the first Stevenson novel I've read in many years -- here.

"Miss Buncle's Book" was the novel being read at the time by the Yahoo group I joined. I never did catch up in time to participate in the online discussion, but had hopes of catching up when they moved on to Book #2 in the Miss Buncle trilogy, "Miss Buncle Married."  That didn't happen;  nor did I get to the third book in the trilogy, "The Two Mrs. Abbotts," which the group just wrapped up discussing.  I'm hoping to have better luck with "The Four Graces," the next pick for April. ;)

Despite not getting the benefits of participating in a good group discussion, I enjoyed both books.  As I said about "Miss Buncle's Book," Stevenson's books are perhaps a little old-fashioned -- definitely products of the place & time in which they were written -- but they are still well-crafted, funny and charming tales about realistic characters.

In the case of "Miss Buncle Married," the time is about 1935 (it can be definitively pegged because the book ends with celebrations for the Royal Jubilee of King George V). The former Miss Barbara Buncle and her new husband/publisher, Arthur Abbott, decide to leave the city and its tiresome social obligations and move to (what they hope will be) a quieter life in the country.  Barbara finds what she thinks is the perfect house -- a fixer-upper in a quaint village called Wandlebury, full of quirky characters to rival those found in her hometown of Silverstream. She soon finds herself meddling in a budding relationship between Arthur's visiting nephew Sam and neighbouring riding instructor Miss Jeronina Cobbe, AKA Jerry, niece of Lady Chevis-Cobbe, one of the town's wealthiest citizens.  Love triumphs in the end (as it always does), but not without a few twists & turns along the way.

"The Two Mrs. Abbotts" takes place about seven years later, in the middle of the Second World War. It's a "home front" kind of book, as Barbara and Jerry and their friends juggle Red Cross speakers and bazaars, evacuees from the city, German spies lurking in the nearby woods, blackout curtains and rationing (which leads to some interesting culinary experiments) -- a fascinating glimpse into home life in wartime Britain. 

These were books #4 and #5 that I've read so far in 2015.

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