Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Two Mrs. Abbotts by D. E. Stevenson

282 pages
Copyright 1943
Farrar & Rinehart, Inc.
Printed in the United States of America
by J.J. Little and Ives Company
New York, NY

Another Miss Buncle book? Yes!

The Two Mrs. Abbotts is a new story about the unique Miss Buncle. War has brought external changes to the small English town of Wandlebury and to its inhabitants. But they are external changes only. Barbara Abbott, the former Miss Buncle, still attracts people to her like flies, drawn by her simple honesty. Although her methods of dealing with their problems are never orthodox, they are highly successful. Barbara's niece, whose husband is serving overseas, has a major part to play in the story, and in her own way manages to complicate matters in a thoroughly diverting manner. To tell the story would be to spoil part of the joy of reading it. It is enough to say The Two Mrs. Abbotts has excitement, humor and romance. (Summary courtesy inside front dust jacket cover.)

My Thoughts:
I have thoroughly enjoyed the Miss Buncle series. Although each of the three books in the series are connected by characters and each story builds upon the last, they are yet almost unique unto their own. If asked I still think I'd claim Miss Buncle Married as my favorite of the three, but at the same time they are each so different that I find them difficult to compare.

Still, I really enjoyed The Two Mrs. Abbotts. It was just as entertaining and witty as the previous books. The adventures and quirky characters are new, but still keep the plot moving. One definite difference between The Two Mrs. Abbotts and the two previous books in the series is the setting of the story. As the book opens the reader finds themselves once more in the home of Barbara Abbott (nee Buncle), but it is several years after the end of Miss Buncle Married and England is in the midst of war with Germany. Because of this setting the story does have some darker moments, but nothing that weighs the reader down.

A nice little surprise for readers and fans of Miss Buncle's Book is the appearance of Sarah Walker from Silverstream, one of the few loyal friends Barbara had while living there and writing as John Smith. I thought Stevenson used this little side-story to tie together Barbara's past and present quite nicely, which resulted in bringing the stories almost full circle, which was a fun surprise to me the reader.

Not to long ago I read another blogger's review of The Two Mrs. Abbotts where the reader lamented that there wasn't enough of Barbara in the story. I didn't find this to be the case at all. While it is true that Barbara is not as central as she was in Miss Buncle Married, I didn't find her any less of a presence than she was in the first book, Miss Buncle's Book. Although the story revolves more around the other Mrs. Abbott I didn't mind because it was giving me a chance to get to know more about Barbara's extended family and friends without leaving Barbara completely out of the story.

Although The Two Mrs. Abbotts is technically the last in the Miss Buncle series, I've been told that several of the characters appear in various other books by D. E. Stevenson, particularly The Four Graces, which is on my TBR list. I find this whole connectivity of the characters very fascinating. While several of Stevenson's books are stand alone novels and several are grouped in specific series there are overlapping people and places, which makes her fictional world seem all the more real-life. I love it!

Ever since I began reading the Miss Buncle series I have been puzzled as to why such a delightful set of books could fall out of print. I recently read something that might prove to be the answer. Apparently during World War II there was a paper shortage which meant publishers could not quickly or easily reprint books when they sold out. This resulted in a small number of books being available to purchase and eventually to the point we are now where those copies available for purchase are quite expensive and rare. Thankfully, as I mentioned before Persephone has chosen to republish Miss Buncle's Book. It is now my hope they will one day continue on to republish the entire series.

But in the meantime, if you've started to read the series and can't afford to purchase the rest of the books I encourage you to check out your library's ILL program. It was through mine that I was able to get my hands on the entire series and I believe they were worth the small trouble and wait. On a scale of 1-5, 1 being horrible and 5 being excellent I would rate The Two Mrs. Abbotts a 4. I truly enjoyed this story and hope to one day include in my personal library.

Other D. E. Stevenson reviews:
Miss Buncle's Book
Miss Buncle Married
The Two Mrs. Abbotts

Rochester's Wife

1 comment:

Susan said...

Recently listened to this as an audiobook after reading the two previous books about Barbara Buncle. It's a bit of a slow start, but I wound up loving it, especially the inspired ending.