Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (org. Farrar & Rinehart)
Published: 2012 (org. 1934)
Barbara Buncle is in a bind. Times are harsh, and Barbara’s bank account has seen better days. Maybe she could sell a novel … if she knew any stories. Stumped for ideas, Barbara draws inspiration from her fellow residents of Silverstream, the little English village she knows inside and out.
To her surprise, the novel is a smash. It’s a good thing she wrote under a pseudonym, because the folks of Silverstream are in an uproar. But what really turns Miss Buncle’s world around is this: what happens to the characters in her book starts happening to their real-life counterparts. Does life really imitate art?
Mr. Abbott doesn’t know what to make of this “John Smith” and “his” book Disturber of the Peace. Is “he” an idiot or a prodigy? Is “he” incredibly simple or full of wit and satire? When Miss Barbara Buncle fesses up to being “John Smith” and writing what she knows — literally — Mr. Abbott is beside himself and can’t wait to publish her book. But Silverstream, Miss Buncle’s quaint English village, is not quite ready to read about their town, exposed so nakedly to the public eye. Soon enough, the events in Miss Buncle’s book — the portion she actually used some imagination for — begin to unfold in real life, and fiction and reality start to blur.
What a charming read! At first I found the writing a bit jarring. The narrative jumps between characters within the chapters. But once I got into the flow, I found I couldn’t put this book down. It’s very much a product of its time in terms of style and execution, but you can find remnants of good old English storytelling in today’s BBC shows. I couldn’t help but think of Doc Martin when reading this.
My favorite thing about this book — apart from it being a book about a book — was how everyone responded to Miss Buncle’s book and scurried around her, gossiping in front of her, scheming within earshot about discovering the author’s true name. Some cute romances blossomed from this as well, whether or not they were inspired or nudged by the book. Seeing this little town fall down a rabbit hole of a tizzy was very entertaining. It makes me wonder how many people swear up and down they’re a character in an author’s book. (And it must have happened often enough to warrant the disclaimer at the beginning of every fictional work!)
A delightful read, perfect for an afternoon tea when BBC television just can’t cut it for the day!