I thought 'Miss Buncle Married' would make for nice gentle holiday reading (how long ago that seems now) and I was right. It's years since I read 'Miss Buncle's Book' and it turns out my memories of it are vague - I think that Miss Buncle writes a book using her neighbours as the characters, and then the things she invents for them come true (or something rather like that), it all gets rather fraught and eventually Miss Buncle is forced to flee the village - which she does, and falls into the arms of her rather nice publisher Arthur Abbott in the process. 'Miss Buncle Married' picks up the story about a year down the line. Barbara Buncle is now Mrs Abbott and very happy with her Arthur, but if there's a fly in the ointment it's this - they're too popular. Instead of spending time together it's a constant round of dinner parties and bridge which neither of them are really enjoying.
The answer is to move and what follows is a long search for the perfect house, some crazy coincidences, the threat of another novel, and some suitably happy endings. D E Stevenson was a prolific author, and extremely popular in her day, but the majority of her books are distinctly average, 'Miss Buncle's Book' it seems, was the exception that proved the rule - it's genuinely charming. 'Miss Buncle Married' appeared a couple of years later and is 'dedicated to those who liked Miss Buncle and asked for more'. I seem to remember that after Miss Buncle first came out Persephone stated quite clearly that they wouldn't publish the sequels because they simply weren't good enough - taking the book on it's own merits this is quite true, it's a fun read, but lacks the extra something that Persephone books normally have. That said I guess they re-printed it for the same reason Stevenson wrote it - for those who liked Miss Buncle and asked for more, and really what better reason could there be? Not every book has to be a masterpiece and before it was reprinted second hand copies of 'Miss Buncle Married' where around £50 a throw.
It's by no means a bad book, there are plenty of moments when Stevenson offers a piece of real insight or something which made me laugh out loud and for anybody (like me) who enjoyed Miss Buncle it's well worth the time spent on it. There is one thing that really stood out though. The Abbott's new neighbours have 3 children; an older son who despite his angelic appearance leans towards the demonic, a younger son who is placid and reasonably ordinary and inbetween a daughter who clearly has obsessive compulsive issues. There is a heartbreakingly sad little portrait of how she deals with her anxieties towards the end of the book - and it's those moments that make all the difference.