by D. E. (Dorothy Emily) Stevenson

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Review

Barbara Buncle is in a bind: her small but steady income has all but disappeared and she needs to find a way to make money fast.  She thinks writing a book might answer her financial problems, but as she is not very confident in her imagination, she decides to write only what she knows, and what she knows is her small village of Silverstream.  Although naïve and unsophisticated, Miss Buncle still manages to provide tongue-in-cheek name changes (for example, Mrs. Dick becomes Mrs. Turpin in her novel; Silverstream becomes Copperfield) and gives the inhabitants good or bad destinies based on their real characters. Providing herself with the handy pseudonym of “John Smith,” she then packages the manuscript up and sends it to a publisher.  When the publisher enthusiastically endorses the book as a best-seller and a first edition is printed, a copy of it soon reaches the village.  Almost instantly, the place is in uproar and nearly all denounce the book as a nasty piece of work, believing it to be a thinly-veiled, vicious caricature, but no one can figure out who the author is.  No one even comes close to guessing that quiet, frumpy, unassuming Miss Buncle could possibly be an insightful judge of character.  To make matters worse (or perhaps better?), what she has written about some of the villagers begins to come true.  It’s only when a few scheming villagers plot a sinister revenge on “John Smith” that Miss Buncle finds she will finally have to set the record straight.  Overall, I found this an excellent gentle read about English village life in the 1930s, full of charm, wit and cleverness.

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