In D. E. Stevenson’s novel, Miss Buncle’s Book (linked to my review), Barbara Buncle is a quiet single lady in 1930s England who needs to make some money. So she writes a book about what she knows–her neighbors. She changes their names and some of their activities. Her book becomes a best-seller. But some of her neighbors recognize themselves and their town. And some of them are determined to find out who is behind the pseudonym “John Smith.”
At the end of that book (spoiler alert), Miss Buncle marries her publisher, Arthur Abbott. They move to Hampstead Heath, away from the heat caused by Barbara’s book.
Miss Buncle Married opens with the newlywed couple enjoying married life, but not the city. They’re expected to be out almost every night, playing bridge with friends and attending events. They long for a quieter home life. So Barbara starts looking at houses in the country.
Barbara finds the house of her dreams in Wandlebury. Arthur isn’t sure about the fixer-upper. But Barbara has everything redone nicely, and they love their new home.
It’s not long before they meet their new neighbors. The pastor’s wife who loves to gossip, thinking it gives her and “in” with her neighbors, when really they hold her at arm’s length because they don’t want to become her subjects. A large, temperamental artist, his languid wife, and their three children, two of whom have claimed Barbara’s back yard as their playground. Mrs. Chevis-Cobb, the society matron who changes her will when her relatives displease her. Jerry, a young woman who supports herself by caring for horses.
Arthur’s nephew, Sam, comes to visit the Abbotts regularly and begins to mature nicely.
Of course, the reader wonders, “Will Barbara write another book? And will it get her into as much trouble as last time?” I’ll leave that for you to discover.
Barbara is presented in both books as somewhat naive and innocent, yet with amazing insight in some ways. She doesn’t mean to meddle, but her attempts to help people present some quite funny episodes in the book.
Some of my favorite quotes from the book:
He . . . looked at his wife, and, as he looked at her, he smiled because she was nice to look at, and because he loved her, and because she amused and interested him enormously. They had been married for nine months now, and sometimes he thought he knew her through and through, and sometimes he thought he didn’t know the first thing about her—theirs was a most satisfactory marriage.
Jerry found Barbara very soothing and comforting during this difficult time. It was not necessary to confide in Barbara to gain her sympathy—you just talked to Barbara about odds and ends of things, and you came away feeling a different creature.
“It’s turned out all right after all,” she said contentedly. “Things usually do, somehow. You worry and fuss and try to make things go the way you think they should, and then you find that the other way was best. I’m going to try not to worry about things anymore.”
As with the first book, this is a secular work, and thus I wouldn’t agree with everything here, like many classics. It’s a clean story, but there are some oddities, especially with the strange family next door.
But all in all, this was a sweet, funny story. I listened to the audiobook superbly read by Patricia Gallimore. The picture above is from the audiobook cover as well, which I like much better than the book cover.