Monday, 23 May 2016

My Friends George and Tom by Jane Duncan


published 1976


HU 93851


[Janet is taking George and Tom to a cocktail party]

‘You had better shake out your kilts and give your sporrans a brush.’

The kilt was a long-standing joke among us as it is with most true Highlanders. It was regarded as a suitable hard-wearing dress for the young [niece and nephews] Liz, Duncan and Gee, of whom Liz the eldest was the only one ever to have a new kilt. Her first kilt had descended through Duncan and Gee and was now in storage awaiting Sandy-Tom. George had worn the kilt for seven years as a Seaforth Highlander, that is, as a uniform, but no grown-up Sandison would wear the kilt as a private citizen. It was worn mostly by landowners of English or even more foreign extraction or American tourists and a few exhibitionists who were possessed as a rule of physiques ill-suited to its exacting demands.My Friends George and Tom 2

‘Och, there will be no need for George and me to go to the party,’ Tom said. ‘It is yourself that they will be wanting and only asking us to be civil.’

‘You will go, both of the two of you,’ I told them. ‘You got me into this bazaar-opening nonsense and you will take the consequences.’
 


commentary: This is the final volume of Jane Duncan’s My Friends… series, and it’s been a long read for me. My first post (on the first book, My Friends the Miss Boyds) was published in June 2013 I see. I’ve read them all since then, and blogged on most of them – for list and overview see here.

Long term heroine (and author-substitute) Janet has returned to where she grew up , though not to her childhood home, which was sold several books back. She is sharing a house with George and Tom – one her uncle, one a long-term member of the family. They are aging, but they manage well together. Many characters from previous books turn up, and a lot of stories are rounded out – at least one person is given a change of heart. As usual, there can be some hard attitudes from Janet, and Monica gets short shrift. And there is a very strange, and presumably of-its-time, storyline about a Down’s Syndrome child.

The book is very meta, with Janet now a best-selling author – writing the books that we recognize as the My Friends series. This is quite hard to cope with, it must be said, I feel we are all inside the book. But it’s a gentle mellow story, and it’s nice to have the loose ends tied up.

You know what must happen to her elderly friends, and Duncan chooses to do it very sensitively. It’s a kind gentle ending, beautifully done. And she has one last surprise for the reader following family history.

I never could remember which was which of George & Tom.

I thought that was very interesting about the kilts, I wouldn’t have known that. George was at Reachfar during the First World War, so his army service must have been before that. So the picture, from the Imperial War Museum, shows the Seaforth Highlanders on the Anglo-Egyptian Nile Campaign of 1898, under Lord Kitchener.

Janet always liked her clothes, so in her new role as bazaar opener and cocktail party attender (because of her fame as a writer) I have given her a smart outfit and hat of the era, from the Clover Vintage Tumblr.











12 comments:

  1. Well, obviously, first off, congrats! And of course great that the series did comet a proper, planned conclusion, which happens a lot less often that we would like!

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    1. Yes, she had a sense of order and closure. I can't honestly say I would recommend everyone else to read these ones, but I am glad that I made my way through them. As I'm fond of saying, I read them so you don't have to...

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  2. Congratulations, Moira! And what a great idea for today's post. It's interesting how different authors choose to bring a series round to its end. And a 'meta' approach is at least innovative. I'm not sure I'd be entirely comfortable with it, but I'm glad it didn't really detract from the book for you. It sounds like a nice way to finish the story arcs.

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    1. Thanks Margot. There is something weird about reading books covering the author's whole life - you get an interesting overview. So I'm glad I followed through on this one.

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  3. This sounded so good I had to go and order the first in the series.

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    1. I do hope you enjoy it! I think the first one is very good, very interesting, and gives a whole view of a certain life nearly 100 years ago.

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  4. How lovely that the author was sensitive about finishing the series although I can totally understand why you felt you were in the book. It does sound like you've had a great attachment to these over the years.

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    1. Yes - I feel I was arguing with the author all the way through this series, but I couldn't stop reading, and have kept all my copies and I'm sure will read them again.

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  5. I enjoyed the information about the kilts. And very interesting that the series had such a unique ending. Had you read all of them before?

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    1. I don't think I had read all of them Tracy - in those days it was hard to get hold of books with a small budget, I had to wait for them to turn up at the library. NOw, it was hard to get hold of some of them because they are just rare - though I think all have been republished as ebooks now, by Bello Books.

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