[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.
‘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.