Sunday, 14 July 2013

Miss Buncle's Book- DE Stevenson

I am a big fan of Persephone Books.  They currently publish 102 titles, books that should have been classics yet have been overlooked.  The books themselves are classically beautiful, understated dove grey covers with a cream title box and discreet Persephone logo.  However, you open up and see beautiful endpapers, in the case of Miss Buncle's Book a 1934 design by Vanessa Bell.  Persephone books also come with a bookmark to match the endpapers, a fabulous idea (and you really won't want to bend back the corners of the pages of a Persephone book, so much needed).  Another feature of Persephone books which appeals to me is the layout on the page-rather than cramming as many words as possible onto each one, pages are set out with wide borders which makes them easy to read. The materials used by Persephone are high quality, making each book a delight to behold.

 
Of course, this would all be irrelevant if the novels themselves were poor quality.  However, I'm yet to be disappointed by a Persephone book.  Some are more accessible than others, but all the titles I have read have been engaging.

Miss Buncle's Book is extremely readable.  The plot is simple- Barbara Buncle has written a novel under the pseudonym John Smith.  The characters in her novel are all based on residents of Buncle's village, Silverstream.  When the book becomes a success, uproar ensues.  The villagers recognise themselves in the book and are determined to uncover the identity of the mysterious John Smith. 

Stevenson's writing style is perfect-not too verbose to distance the reader, yet detailed, charming and classical.  Much of Miss Buncle's Book focuses on the banal, day-to-day life of an average British village in the 1930s.  It is the characters and the interactions between them that will hook you in, and the book hasn't dated despite the fact it was written in 1934. Yes, life is portrayed differently to how it would be in modern society, but it still feels relevant and believable. 

Would I recommend Miss Buncle's Book?  Absolutely.  I only wish I had read it sooner.  This really is a book that deserves to be widely read and held in high esteem.  As Sarah says in the novel, 'You miss a lot by not being able to read...these people are real, live people-they are quite delicious'.  I feel exactly the same about the characters in Miss Buncle's Book.  DE Stevenson deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as female authors held in the highest regard.   Miss Buncle's Book really is delicious, delightful, divine.  Please go and read a copy, and when you enjoy it, tell your friends to read it too.

9.5/10

With many thanks to Persephone Books for providing me with a copy of Miss Buncle's Book.

Persephone Books publish fiction and non-fiction that has been 'unjustly neglected'.  You can find out more about Persephone by visiting their website , or better still visit their beautiful shop at 59 Lamb's Conduit Street, London, WC1N 3NB.  You may also have a local stockist, in Sheffield we are fortunate to have Handpicked Books that always has a selection of Persephone titles in stock. 

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