When I finished reading Miss Buncle Married – I felt I wanted to read the next book – The Two Mrs Abbotts right away. I found out that Persephone are probably publishing it at some point but I wasn’t sure I could wait. A quick look online revealed old copies fetching rather high prices – I know D E Stevenson books can be quite sort after these days. So I did a quick search on the Birmingham Library Catalogue – there was one book – I requested it. That was back in February – and I had almost forgotten all about it. Then I received an email while I was away in Devon, the week before last – saying the book was waiting to be collected. I went after work last Monday, knowing it would have to be my next read. I started it very late on Wednesday night, reading slowly the next two days after work, trying to savour it – but just gobbled up about 200 pages this afternoon to finish it.
Since the events of the second “Miss Buncle book” several years have passed. It is now 1942 and people are living with the everyday realities of wartime. Barbara Abbott – who was once Miss Buncle – now has two young children, Simon and Fay. She and her husband still live in Wandlebury – the faithful Dorcas still in attendance. Jerry (Jeronina) Abbott is married to Arthur Abbott’s nephew Sam, Sam is fighting the war in Egypt and Jerry must manage things on her husband’s estate Ganthorne with the help of her former governess Markie. These include a family of dirty London evacuees living in an estate cottage, soldiers billeted on the estate, and rumours of a German spy in the vicinity.
Meanwhile Barbara is drawn unwillingly into a rather regrettable love affair between Lancreste Marvell (who readers may remember from Miss Buncle married) and a fairly unpleasant girl called Pearl. There is also an adorable storyline involving a very successful romantic novelist, dominated by her sister.
Barbara Abbott – takes a bit of a back seat in this novel, we see far more of Jerry, Markie and the other characters. Fortunately they are all as lovely as Barbara, and although this novel is not quite as fabulous as Miss Buncle’s Book and Miss Buncle Married, it is wonderfully charming and hugely readable, and just absolutely hit the spot for me the last few days. D E Stevenson may not be a great literary talent, but I think her writing may be quite underrated she creates a charming yet believable world, and her characters are adorable. She can be very funny too, and really very observant of people, with a good ear for their voices.
“There’s nothing to do but think about her all the time. If only I could get my orders. Why haven’t they sent me my orders? D’you think the war office has forgotten all about me Mrs Abbott?”
Barbara had no idea whether or not this was possible and was about to make a noncommittal reply, but Simon got in before her.
“Perhaps they don’t need you,” he suggested
“Perhaps they think they can win the war without you” added Fay.
The Wretched Lancreste looked at Simon and then at Fay – and, being met by the stare of two pairs of innocent eyes, he looked away again.
“oh no, it can’t be that,” said Barbara hastily – far too hastily, for of course she had merely made it worse. She was really at her wits end by now and entertained wild thoughts of putting the children to bed, and getting rid of them.”
I will definitely buy a copy of this if and when Persephone publish it – just to add to my collection – as I just know these are books I will come back to. I was rather bereft at finishing it today – which I think is exactly how I felt when I finished Miss Buncle Married.