MISS BUNCLE’S BOOK by D.E.Stevenson (Persephone £15, 304 pp)


by D.E.Stevenson (Persephone £15, 304 pp)

Frothy as soap suds, irresistible as cream cakes, this 1934 reprint is hilarious fun.

Village spinster Miss Buncle (under the pseudonym John Smith) pens a first novel. Lacking imagination, she writes about the neighbours, changing names, making their awful lives even more dreadful.

An astonished bachelor publisher laughs from start to finish, unable to decide whether ‘Smith’ is a genius or madman.

The book becomes a roaring bestseller, the only problem being that furious villagers demand Smith be sued, if not horse-whipped.

Meanwhile, Buncle gets rich, starts book number two and —you’ve guessed — the publisher falls head-over-heels.


by Brian Moore (Turnpike £10, 224 pp)

If you crave profound insights, literary brilliance and masterly story-telling this is the book.

Imagine 1970s Belfast, stifled by religion, deeply conformist, where Dev (34) teaches at a Catholic boys’ school. He is decent, kind, has ‘no luck with girls’ and is a virgin.

He meets vibrant teenager Una, who enjoys pubs and dancing and is astounded that Dev believes drunkenness is a mortal sin. Rumours abound that Una was ‘mixed up with a married man’.

However, Dev falls tenderly in love and the couple’s eventual attempt at love-making at his hideous digs is the most moving, unforgettable sex scene ever.

THEY WERE SISTERS by Dorothy Whipple (Persephone £15, 464 pp)


by Dorothy Whipple (Persephone £15, 464 pp)

As my old aunt would say, babyboomer girls don’t know they’re born. Whipple’s wholly addictive novel evokes the 1930s when, for middle- class girls, marriage, motherhood and domesticity are the ultimate destiny.

There’s no further education or career training, and ‘spinsters’ stay home caring for the widowed parent.

The fascinating drama of three privileged sisters unfolds. One marries a drunken sadist, one indulges in sad affairs, neglecting her children, and the third sacrifices her dreams of Oxford to care for her father until freed by his death to marry.

Decent women endure hellish marriages, financially dependent on their men, and divorce means social disgrace. Whew! Hurrah for modern times.

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