Book reviews

Tipping the Teapot: Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson

Miss Buncle's Book

 

(Imagine my surprise last week when I came upon Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson at the Ballard Public Library.  The back cover claimed millions of Ms. Stevenson’s novels had been sold.  How come I never heard of her? I wondered.  Well, now I have.  I’m sold on Miss Buncle, too. Miss B. would consider it sacrilegious, but I look forward to watching her adventures on the big screen.  Surely a screenplay is in the works.  I can’t think of any other reason for the BPL’s spanking new edition of Miss Buncle’s Book.) 

Mrs. Featherstone Hogg is not happy about John Smith’s depiction of her in his new novel, Disturber of the Peace

Also, Disturber’s insinuations are false.  Colonel Weatherhead and Mrs. Dorothea Bold (Disturber’s Major Waterfoot and Mrs. Mildmay) have not wed and have not sailed to the Continent on honeymoon.  Miss King and Miss Pretty (Disturber’s Miss Earle and Miss Darling) have not outfitted themselves with riding breeches and taken off to Samarkand.  Mr. Stephen Bulmer is writing a History of Henry the Fourth, not The Life of Alva.  And Mr. Bulmer’s wife is not carrying on with another man.   

Mrs. Featherstone Hogg particularly resents her portrayal.  She is not the bullying Mrs. Horsley Downs.

Her demands are clear: the publishing house of Abbott and Spencer will remove immediately all copies of Disturber from bookstores and libraries everywhere.  In the meantime she has distributed Disturber to all of Silverstream.  The villagers need to be made aware of Disturber’s libelous portrayals.  She will not be fooled.  The parallels between the villagers of Silverstream’s and Disturber’s Copperfieldians are simply too numerous to be coincidental.  

After all have digested Disturber, a meeting to discuss what is to be done will take place at her home.  (It makes no difference that Colonel Weatherhead and Dorothea have both suddenly gone on holiday and won’t be in attendance.  And if Miss King and Miss Pretty seem a bit distracted, it is because they’re considering a trip to Egypt, not Samarkand.) 

After Chairman Featherstone Hogg ferrets out Smith’s identity (for certainly Smith is a pseudonym.  Disturber could only have been written by a villager and no John Smiths live in Silverstream), she will see to it that he is punished severely. 

She has a good idea already who is responsible for Disturber’s libelous depictions: surely it is the doctor’s wife, Sarah Walker, the mousy Miss Barbara Buncle’s protestations to the contrary. 

Nothing short of a horsewhipping will do.  That should teach the traitor not to mock Agatha Featherstone Hogg. 

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