1 February 2023 Susannah

Miss Buncle’s Book

D.E. Stevenson & Miss Buncle's Book

Over the last year or so I’ve grown more aware of the name of novelist D.E. Stevenson, and I recently had the great treat of reading Miss Buncle’s Book. It was a total delight.

Dorothy Emily Stevenson (1892 – 1973) was a Scottish writer and was a bestseller in her day, selling over 7 million books. Her father was cousin to R.L. Stevenson. There is today a plaque on the house where she was born in Edinburgh. She began writing at a young age, but hid her efforts from her parents because of their disapproval. Her father would not let her attend university as he feared she would turn into a bluestocking. Dorothy married an army captain and her experiences as a military wife went into her book Mrs Tim of the Regiment which I read and quite enjoyed. She wrote over forty novels, and her books have recently made quite a comeback – they are being reprinted by Persephone Books and are being produced as audio books.

Miss Buncle’s Book was published in 1934 and is set in an English village in the 1930s. Barbara Buncle, who is short of money, writes a book which depicts her fellow villagers under different names but who are instantly recognisable. Her book is published under the pseudonym of John Smith and is a success and the entire village is desperate to know the real identity of Mr Smith. The novel shows what happens when people see themselves through others’ eyes and how Miss Buncle’s insights change her community. I often laughed out loud – the book is hilarious. It was a wise, charming, and cosy read to start my year. Fortunately, there are two sequels for me to now turn to – Miss Buncle Married and The Two Miss Abbotts. One critic commented that the book is the equivalent of a nice cup of tea, but I’d say it is more a glass of prosecco – bubbles of fun and so pleasant to savour.

Have you read any of D.E. Stevenson’s books? Can you recommend one to me? Tell me by leaving a comment.

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Featured image- D.E. Stevenson 1916, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=106579478; & Miss Buncle’s Book, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1200465.Miss_Buncle_s_Book

Comments (24)

  1. Roz Gatwood

    Hi Susannah,
    Sadly, my local libraries had no DE Stevenson books at all, so yesterday I sat for five hours in a comfortable chair at the State Library of New South Wales, reading Miss Buncle’s Book from cover to cover. A very entertaining way to spend the afternoon! They have plenty of other Stevenson titles in the stack, so I may become a regular visitor. Thanks for the tip.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Gosh, you did go to lots of trouble to follow up on my recommendation, so I’m very relieved you enjoyed the book. I think many of her books are available on Kindle, and I can certainly recommend the audio book version of it. The sequel Miss Buncle Married was also a delight, though not quite as fabulous as the first book.I’ve had a lot of responses to my recommendation, so there are clearly lots of DE Stevenson fans out there.

  2. Donna Fletcher Criw

    Ah, which to recommend? Impossible, really. I should say read them in order. I love the references to Trollope and Barsetshire. I still laugh over her “Ministry of Red Tape.”

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I’ve now read the first two Miss Buncle books, so have many lovely hours ahead of me still.

  3. Susannah, I was delighted to see this article! I absolutely adore D. E. Stevenson and have read everything she wrote. I especially loved Miss Buncle’s book because I so identify with her–I “have no imagination” in that plotting is terribly hard for me–that’s a large part of why I write history–it gives me a story to follow. I was directed to her books when I first started writing and was corresponding with the American novelist Elswyth Thane. For many years she enriched my reading by pointing me to authors I should read. Elizabeth Goudge was another.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I am not at all surprised you are a D.E. Stevenson fan. She obviously loves Jane Austen’s novels and there are many quotes and references, which are an added delight. I’ve now read 3 of her books and certainly plan to read more. She’s so funny and such a joy – don’t know how I’ve gone so long without discovering her books.

  4. Becca

    I’ve read about 12 of DE Stevenson’s books, and want to read more. Like one of the reader’s above said, they’re like a warm hug. The people are mostly likeable or funny. I haven’t read Ms Buncle yet, but look forward to it.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      A friend who had read a lot of D E Stevenson told me she thought Miss Buncle’s Book was her best work. I loved it!

  5. Vanessa Coldwell

    I haven’t yet but it sounds like E.F. Benson’s Lucia books which I adore!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I also adore the Mapp and Lucia books. Yes, Miss Buncle has many similarities, and is almost as funny. I just loved it.

  6. Sue

    Have recently read all the Mrs Tim series, and enjoyed them very much. I have also read ‘Miss Buncle married’ and ‘The two Mrs Abbotts’. I did not enjoy them as much as the Mrs Tim series.
    I will try to read her other books, as I think she is a fine writer of the domestic side of life.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I should continue with the Mrs Tim series, although I much preferred Miss Buncle. Evidently, the Mrs Tim books were based on her own experiences as an army wife.

  7. Judy Heath

    Have I read the DE Stevenson books! As teenager I found a couple on our bookshelves at home and kept on chasing up more ever since. There are now 48 on my shelves. Books to come back to again and again… books full of delightful pen portraits of children, tales from history, life through world war 2, country life, romance, laughter and problems solved. What more can I say, find out for yourself.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      48 of them – wow! I obviously have a long way to go!!! I can’t believe it ahs taken me this long to discover her writing.

  8. Carolyn Cossgrove

    Darn it, my local library only has Miss Buncle, Married 🙁 How rude!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      You HAVE to read them in the right order. If you like audio books, there’s a fabulous reading of both books on audible.com I laughed out loud so often and just loved both books.

  9. Karen Camer

    I love all the DE Stevenson books, especially The Miss Bunkle ones but I do love Green Money and The Fair Miss Fortune. Dean Street Press have republished probably about 15 of them or maybe more so I urge you to check them out. If you enjoyed DE Stevenson then I highly recommend Susan Scarlett books (she was also Noel Streatield) DSP published all 12 of her books last year and although I’ve only read 5 of them they are all 5 star reads

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Oh I need more reading time!!!! I had no idea Noel Streetfield published under another name! Thanks for those recommendations, which I will add to my ever-growing and enormous To Read List.

  10. When I visited Persephone Books in London a few years ago, I was encouraged to buy Miss Buncle’s Book, a favorite of the staff. I brought it all the way home to California and it’s still on my shelf, unread. Thank you for this post and recommendation! I will move the book to the top of my reading pile and I look forward to it!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      You are lucky to have a lovely Persephone Books copy. Do read it soon. DE Stevenson obviously adored Jane Austen’s novels, and there are lots of quotes and references, so you’ll have fun picking up on those.

  11. Kelly

    Hi Susannah, I was thrilled to see the inclusion of DE Stevenson to your newsletter as she has long been one of my favourites!
    I first discovered the Mrs Tim books after reading EM Delafield’s Diary of a Provincial Lady, which then led me to the delightful Miss Buncle! Revisited all of these titles through lockdown & for me they are the literary equivalent of a warm hug.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I don’t know why it has taken me so long to discover DE Stevenson, and she loves Jane Austen too – there are lots of quotes and references to JA in her fiction. I plan to go on and read lots more of her works.

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