Published 1961 chapter 6 set about 1925
observations: In an earlier entry on Jane Duncan I explained that these books were the archetypal novels for a girls’ school library in the 1960s and 70s, so it is all the more surprising that the women in this passage (not, it is only fair to say, in the photo) are prostitutes. It is one of the many surprises about these books – they are virtuous and priggish a lot of the time, then suddenly burst into some crashingly modern bit about sex. The real shock in this one is not the prostitutes, it’s that dreary goody goody heroine Janet lives with a man without marrying him.
The series, although forgotten now, certainly did appeal to people at the time of publication, they were bestsellers, and it is true they make for easy reading – but only if you skim through some of the more cringe-making passages. Writer Jane/Narrator Janet (and yes, you are plainly supposed to confuse them) frequently sinks into an embarrassingly faux-self-deprecating style: silly old me, I always thought that…[insert piece of random alleged common sense, coming to her from crofting childhood surrounded by truly wonderful adults]. You end up rooting for the people Jane/t hates quite often, and boy is she a good hater – she sounds vile, and completely up herself. And yet…nothing is making me re-read them all, but I am working my way through them.
One of her former schoolmates turns out to be a prostitute in this section, but there is never the slightest attempt to understand why that should be, the character is completely flat and really, close to non-existent. That might not matter so much except - she is the eponymous Annie… She does make a completely splendid appearance near the end of the book in white satin and diamonds. I’d have loved to know a lot less of Janet’s thoughts and a lot more of Annie’s.
There have been two previous entries on the blog from this series.
The photo (and again I must stress, perfectly respectable women) is of an American women’s jazz band (very Some Like it Hot) visiting Australia in the 1920s. It was taken by Sam Hood, whose collection at the State Library of New South Wales is a wonder.