Miss Buncle's Book. D.E. Stevenson. 1934. 304 pages. [Source: Bought]
First sentence: One fine summer’s morning the sun peeped over the hills and looked down upon the valley of Silverstream.
Premise/plot: Miss Barbara Buncle lives in the quiet and peaceful village of Silverstream. But Miss Buncle has a secret which is so BIG, so EXPLOSIVE, that it will shake up an entire community. Her secret? Necessity has driven her to write a book, and since she lacks an imagination, her book is peopled with her actual neighbors. In some ways no one is more surprised that the book will be published than Miss Buncle herself. Can she keep her secret intact and protect herself from a potential mob? The book is published under the name JOHN SMITH. This gives Miss Buncle some time at least! But there are a few people who will dedicate their lives to uncovering the REAL identity of the author. While there are busybodies trying to discover John Smith's identity, Miss Buncle is spending her time WRITING A SEQUEL.
My thoughts: I loved, loved, LOVED this one. I wish I'd known about it sooner in my life. I loved spending time with Miss Buncle. I loved meeting everyone in the village. I especially loved the doctor's wife, Sarah, and the young Sally Carter. (I also loved, loved, loved the publisher, Mr. Abbott.)
This is a novel that is just OH-SO-RIGHT that you can't help wanting to live in it and savor every single minute of it. I loved the characterization, as I've hinted at, but I also loved the WRITING. One could almost open it up to any page and find something worthy of quoting.
I loved how the events of Miss Buncle's books start happening in real life...
What fools the public were! They were exactly like sheep…thought Mr. Abbott sleepily…following each other’s lead, neglecting one book and buying another just because other people were buying it, although, for the life of you, you couldn’t see what the one lacked and the other possessed. But this book, said Mr. Abbott to himself, this book must go—it should be made to go. Pleasant visions of bookstalls piled with neat copies of Chronicles of an English Village and the public clamoring for more editions passed dreamily through his mind.
John Smith, what a name! An assumed name, of course, and rather a good one considering the nature of the book. Every single character breathed the breath of life. There was not a flat two-dimensional character in the book—rather unusual that!
It was queer, it was unusual, it was provocative, and, strangely enough, it was also extremely funny.
“Why did you write it? How did you feel when you were writing it? Have you ever written anything before?” he explained. “I wanted money,” said Miss Buncle simply. Mr. Abbott chuckled. This was a new kind of author. Johnson’s dictum that nobody but a donkey wrote for anything except money was as true today as it had ever been and always would be, but how few authors owned to the fact so simply! They either told you that something stronger than themselves compelled them to write, or else that they felt they had a message to give the world.
In his opinion Disturber of the Peace was a golden egg, but whether Miss Goose Buncle would lay anymore was beyond the power of man to tell.
Barbara watched it all with interest; it was such fun to watch people and see how they reacted to one another’s personality.
Nobody in Silverstream cared what Barbara Buncle thought; the woman was nothing but an idiot.
She had lived for so long among these people and had suffered so many afternoon teas that she was able to say the expected thing without thinking about it at all. You simply put a penny in the machine and the expected thing came out at once, all done up in a neat little packet, and suitably labeled.
He had already noticed that Miss Buncle was either monosyllabic and completely inarticulate, or else overpowered by a stream of words which forced themselves between her lips like water from a bursting dam.
(It was almost as if she were on oath to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth all day long and every day of the week).
“Ugh, damn and blast!” he cried, rubbing his ear with a thoroughly grimy hand, and decided for a bath. The decision had been made for him by a spider (not for the first time had this intelligent insect helped a gallant soldier to make an important decision at a critical moment. It will be remembered that Robert the Bruce was similarly guided).
She tried to fix her mind on the sermon. It was all about loving your neighbor, and how you must seek out the good in people and only see the good. Mr. Hathaway said that was the way to make people good—by refusing to see the evil. Barbara wondered if this were true, and, if so, how deep it went. If you refused to see the evil in a murderer, did that cure him? Doubtful.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have met together today to discuss this book—Disturber of the Peace—which has been flung into our peaceful village like a poison bomb. Before the publication of this book we were all living together like a big happy family, but now there are rifts in the lute and the music is discordant and harsh.”
A person can read when they’re knitting, but they can’t write, can they?
“What about history?” suggested Sally. “I’m awfully ignorant about history, you know.” “We had better start with history, then,” Ernest said. “Everyone should know something about history, shouldn’t they?” Sally demanded.
“Nobody even thought of you. You could never have written Disturber of the Peace. Sarah Walker has brains. I don’t care for the woman at all—never did. She has no idea of how a lady ought to behave. Barbara was hurt, and amused, intensely relieved, and very much annoyed all at the same time.
Christmas came and went; Silverstream went to church and gave each other small and somewhat useless presents just as it always did at this season of the year.
Ernest learned quite as much as Sally at these history lessons—not much history, of course, but there are other things just as important as history.
Mr. Abbott had never before read a novel about a woman who wrote a novel about a woman who wrote a novel—it was like a recurring decimal, he thought, or perhaps even more like a perspective of mirrors such as tailors use, in which the woman and her novel were reflected back and forth to infinity. It made your brain reel if you pursued the thought too far, but there was no need to do so, unless you wanted to, of course. So much for the main theme.
Miss Buncle’s writing had come on a lot, and yet it had not lost the extraordinary simplicity which some people had taken for satire.
Mr. Abbott sat and thought about it for a long time, and then he smiled. He saw the end of the book quite clearly, and it was an end that satisfied him—he hoped sincerely that it would satisfy Miss Buncle. He found a sheet of foolscap and outlined his idea for the completion of The Pen is Mightier—. The letter which he enclosed with the manuscript and the notes took him much longer to write, and he re-wrote it several times before he was satisfied with its wording.
An episode that has actually happened in real life cannot be said to be too improbable for a novel.
© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
These Old Shades. Georgette Heyer. 1926/2008. Harlequin. 384 pages. [Source: Bought]
First sentence: A gentleman was strolling down a side street in Paris, on his way back from the house of one Madame de Verchoureux.
Premise/plot: These Old Shades has a lively, impulsive, honest heroine in Leonie. The hero, Justin Alistair, is equally unforgettable, a man with a horrid reputation with the ladies. (Among other things, he's even KIDNAPPED a lady in an attempt to get her to marry him.) He's not called 'devil' for nothing. But try telling Leonie that Justin is anything but an absolute angel! You see, he rescued her from her mean brother, he bought her. Of course, even that isn't quite what it appears to be. For Leonie was then posing as, Leon, a young man. (She'd been living as a boy since she'd turned twelve.) So Avon first meets Leon, likes the red hair and dark eyebrows, and decides the boy would be a good page. It would be useful to him to have the boy in his household...
There are also hints of villainy throughout These Old Shades as Justin prepares to use Leonie as a weapon against one of his own enemies...
My thoughts: These Old Shades has an intriguing opening and a marvelous conclusion. (The last seventy-five pages or so are just wonderful!) There are some lively conversations in between, of course. As Leon is taken to England and transforms into Leonie. As Avon tries through two women (his sister, his cousin) to teach her how to be a lady, how to dress, how to walk, how to talk, what to say, and most importantly what NOT to say. Readers are introduced to Justin's family: his sister, his brother-in-law, his brother, his neighbors, etc. Rupert, Justin's brother, becomes a playmate of sorts for Leonie. Both being immature, teasing, silly.
These Old Shades is my mother's favorite novel by Georgette Heyer. It isn't necessarily my favorite. But I do enjoy rereading it very much.
There is a connection--a connection in my opinion that has to be intentional--between The Black Moth and These Old Shades. I do wish that the names matched since These Old Shades is essentially a sequel set four years later. Lavinia has been renamed Fanny; Richard has been renamed Edward; Jack has been renamed Anthony Merivale; Diana has been renamed Jennifer; Tracy has been renamed Justin.
I found out yesterday that Mom has NEVER read The Black Moth. I was a bit shocked because I thought she'd read every Heyer novel! I am curious to see if she makes the connections between These Old Shades and The Black Moth and if she reaches the same conclusion I did.
"Vengeance?" Hugh leaned forward. "I thought you disliked melodrama, my friend?"
"I do; but I have a veritable passion for justice."
"You've nourished thoughts of--vengeance--for twenty years?"
"My dear Hugh, if you imagine that the lust of vengeance has been my dominating emotion for twenty years, permit me to correct the illusion."
"Has it not grown cold?" Hugh asked, disregarding.
"Very cold, my dear, but none the less dangerous."
"And all this time not one opportunity has presented itself?"
"You see, I wish it to be thorough," apologized the Duke.
"Are you nearer success now than you were--twenty years ago?"
A soundless laugh shook Justin.
"We shall see. Rest assured that when it comes, it will be--so!" Very slowly he clenched his hand on his snuff-box, and opened his fingers to show the thin gold crushed.
Hugh gave a little shiver.
"My God, Justin, do you know just how vile you can be?"
"Naturally: Do they not call me Satanas?" The mocking smile came; the eyes glittered. (27)
"Remind me one day to teach you how to achieve a sneer, Hugh. Yours is too pronounced, and thus is but a grimace. It should be but a faint curl of the lips." (88)
"It is always wise to believe the worst of me, Fanny."
"I confess I don't understand you, Justin. 'Tis most provoking."
"It must be," he agreed.
She drew nearer, coaxing him.
"Justin, I do wish that you would tell me what is in your mind!"
He took a pinch of snuff, and shut the box with a snap.
"You must learn, my dear Fanny, to curb your curiosity. Suffice it that I am as a grandfather to that child. It should suffice." (122)
"Did you think we had eloped?" Rupert inquired.
"That explanation did present itself to me," admitted his Grace.
"Eloped?" Leonie echoed. "With Rupert? Ah, bah, I would as soon elope with the old goat in the field!"
"If if comes to that, I'd as soon elope with a tigress!" retorted Rupert. "Sooner, by Gad!"
"When this interchange of civilities is over," said his Grace languidly, "I will continue. But do not let me interrupt you." (196)
© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Because. Mo Willems. Illustrated by Amber Ren. 2019. Hyperion. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: Because a man named Ludwig wrote beautiful music--a man named Franz was inspired to create his own. Because many years later, people wanted to hear Franz's beautiful music--they formed an orchestra. Because a man had practiced since he was a kid--he was asked to join.
Premise/plot: A young girl's life is changed forever when she attends a symphony. Half the story focuses on the before--the many, many becauses that lead up to that magical moment. Half the story focuses on the after--again using many, many becauses. Essentially the premise is MUSIC IS FOOD FOR THE SOUL. Also that it only takes a moment for a life to be changed.
From that moment on, the girl learned everything she could about music--because it fed her.
Soon, she started to write music, too--because, like Franz, the young woman had something to share.
My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. It is a BEAUTIFUL picture book. It had me at hello--with the end pages. Though to be fair, there is something about the cover of this one that says READ ME, READ ME. Though to be honest, I would have read this one anyway no matter what the cover looked like BECAUSE it's MO WILLEMS.
I thought this one was beautifully written. This one is perhaps a bit more sentimental than most of Mo Willem's previous books. Willem may perhaps be best known for two super-popular series: Elephant & Piggie and Pigeon. There is something almost lyrical about the text of this one--pure magic.
I also thought this one was beautifully illustrated. I'll never know if the illustrations alone would have hooked me--swept me up, up, and away--because I also fell head over heels in love with the text. But together magic is made in this one.
I would recommend this one FOR ALL AGES. The symphony that inspired her was playing Schubert's Symphony No. 8
Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10
© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation. Adapted by Ari Folman. Original text by Anne Frank. Illustrated by David Polonsky. 2018. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: No one would believe me, but at the age of 13, I feel totally alone in this world.
Premise/plot: This is a graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl. It is not unabridged by any means; the text has been condensed/adapted. But much of the text remains recognizably Anne's own words.
My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I don't usually enjoy graphic novels....but...every now and then I find myself loving one. Did I love this one? Yes, for the most part. I think the adaptation was well done. It condensed some of the material--which almost by necessity is a bit repetitive--and put the emphasis on some of the more dramatic sections. The book remains a coming-of-age memoir; readers witness Anne's emotional ride through puberty in the midst of war and uncertainty. I liked how the amount of text varied throughout. Sometimes Anne's own words are more powerful than any image could ever hope to be. And sometimes the illustrations really convey Anne's inner life remarkably well. For example, there's a spread where the illustrator is showing how Anne feels about being compared to her "perfect" sister Margot. That was PRICELESS in my opinion. Another great example is an illustration revealing Anne's disgust with her dentist roommate. She finds HIS UNDERWEAR on Kitty--her diary. That would certainly explain a lot if it is true.
I reviewed the definitive edition of her diary
earlier this year where I discussed my reactions to Anne's text.
© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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