Saturday, 6 December 2014

My Friend Sashie by Jane Duncan

published 1972









[Janet is going to a wedding on the West Indian island of St Jago]

‘I have to honour the occasion with new clothes,’ I said. ‘What in the world shall I get?’

‘It is a pity shorts and sandals won’t do,’ Sashie said. ‘They suit you, but I suppose you have to look like a respectable matron as the rest of the world sees you…. White, I should say,’ he ended.

‘White what?’

‘Clothes for the wedding. White and plain with a large hat and long gloves. There are a lot of old people at Trixie’s home and if they are having white people at the wedding at all, they would prefer a real old-fashioned white missis and you can lok the part.’

‘But I don’t want to look a part as you put it!’ I protested.

‘It is not a question of what you want, as I see it, my sweet. As I see it, the polite thing is to be what they want.’



observations: This lengthy series (19 books) is approaching its end: there are two more after this, particularly hard ones to find as it turns out, but it seems Jane Duncan might have intended this one as the last one. After the momentous and calamitous events of the previous book, My Friend the Swallow, which I found in its final chapters to be unexpected, affecting and well-written, Janet is trying to get going on her life again. And we’re back to the trademark Duncan touch: a bizarre situation arises from nowhere, becomes incredibly serious, and then gets resolved in a mysterious manner as fast as it arrived. See also: the accident that paralyzed her in My Friend Monica, and the would-be affairs and attractions in My Friend Sandy (particularly good pictures attached to that one). Here – and I don’t think I need to avoid spoilers, on the grounds that I am the only person to have read these books in the past 30 years – Janet becomes an alcoholic. This is described in brave and unflinching terms, and is wrenching and difficult to read. She has a kind of breakdown, then an apocalyptic moment, and then she stops drinking and it’s all (roughly) all right again. My goodness, these are strange books.

This one obviously centres on Sashie de Marnay, who has been a very important character in the St Jago books: but she also re-introduces quite a few old characters from earlier in the series, which helps give that summing-up, finishing-up flavour. In fact Jane Duncan can always confound you: these people are not dealt with particularly nicely, Janet is very cool and rather rude about them, there is no sentimentality about old friends. However the final revelation about Sashie - about whom she is not rude, and who was actually a lovely and well-done character - is ludicrous and made this reader tut somewhat. I do like his comment here on the etiquette of what you should wear for social events - 'not what you want, what they want' might be a valuable motto for people to remember.

The picture is from Dovima is divine – I use this resource a lot, and should point out that as in other cases, confusingly, that does not mean it is Dovima in the picture, it is just the name of the photostream.

8 comments:

  1. Moira - I have to say, I loved that comment about etiquette for what to wear. It's beautifully written and a fine observation. This does sound like an odd sort of book, but as you say, perhaps that fits in with the rest of the series. Sounds like a great sense of setting, too!

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    1. Yes, you're right Margot: nice sense of place, good atmosphere. And that's an intriguing motto for clothes choice isn't it?

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  2. Moira thanks for not threatening to add to the tubs! Still never read a Jane!

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    1. Obviously that's going to be a future challenge.

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  3. I have been reading and re reading these books for all of my adult life...and yes, quite a bit longer than 30 years! It has been such fun to roam around the blogosphere and see that are indeed other people that read these often, often quite obscure, authors like Jane Duncan and D E Stevenson etc...

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    1. Oh fantastic to find another reader! Have you written reviews anywhere? Yes, one of the best things about blogs is that you can usually find someone else who has read those obscure authors....

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  4. This one sounds more interesting, but still don't think I will dip into this series. I do love the photo to illustrate it.

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    1. Definitely me reading it so you don't have to. But yes, love the photo. I thought I might have difficult finding an illo for the right outfit for this one, but as soon as I saw this I knew it was the right one....

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