By D. E. Stevenson
“Sarah!” said Barbara Abbott again.
“Yes, it’s me,” nodded Sarah (who although aware that one should say “it is I,” could never bring herself to utter the words because for some reason or other it sounded as if one were God).
We are introduced once again to Barbara Abbott, nee Buncle, and her niece Jeronina Abbott, (“Jerry for short. It’s rather a blot to be called Jerry these days but it was too much bother to make everyone change.”) We first met the younger Mrs. Abbott in the previous book, Miss Buncle Married. They are weathering the war years, Barbara happily married to her darling Arthur, and Jerry, missing her soldier husband, Sam, who is “somewhere in the desert.” As with the last two books in the series, this novel consists largely of stories and glimpses into the lives of their friends and acquaintances. Some are lovable and some not so lovable.
On the lovable side, we have “Dorky”, Barbara’s children’s elderly Nanny, Hard-working Archie, Jerry’s brother, Miss Janetta Walters, a lauded author of sappy romances, or “high-powered tushery” as Arthur calls them, a mysterious stranger in their midst, Jane Watt, and a young girl, Wilhemina Bowles, a diamond in the rough, who has taken refuge with Markie and Jerry from her slovenly and coarse family. My favorite is the wondrous Sophonisba Marks, “Markie,” Jerry’s beloved and intellectual housekeeper and catcher of German Spies extraordinaire.
On the unlovable (but still very entertaining) side we have Helen Walters, Janetta’s domineering sister, Lancreste, Barbara’s hapless and silly neighbor, Mrs. Boles, the least said about her the better, and the very common and not very nice, Pearl, Lancreste’s almost fiance.
There are many other characters as well, all beautifully portrayed and interesting. Their personalities were enhanced by the quirky interpretation of the narrator, Patricia Gallimore. The stories we follow most closely as we weave our way in and out of the lives of the select denizens of Wandlebury are the romance and courtship of confirmed bachelor Archie with a newcomer to the village, and the crises and fates of Wilhelmina, Lancreste, and Markie. As these stories reach their satisfactory conclusions, we hate to leave the pretty English town and hope they all emerge from the war safely and happily. Especially Sam and Jerry.
August 4, 2021