Wednesday, 26 June 2013

My Friend Monica by Jane Duncan

published  1960   Part 1 set in the late 1940s





[Narrator Janet is meeting up with her wartime friend, Lady Monica Loame, near her home in Scotland]

The next morning, when we drove up to the Crook, Monica was sitting on top of a wooden stile that bridged the fence between the lawn and some woodland in a russet and green sweater and skirt and hand-made brown brogues, looking like a well-posed, well-taken picture of that autumn’s best country wear in an expensive magazine. Her uncle was standing beside her with his back against a fence post, in a baggy, hairy, tweed suit, looking like an old sheep farmer, and not in the least like an inventor of complicated valves. When Monica introduced us he glared at me in a hostile way, or so it seemed, [and] muttered a greeting.




observations: What’s impressive about Jane Duncan is her self-confidence. She correctly assumed that a lot of people would buy her series of 19 (yes, 19!) books vaguely based on her life, full of her own ideas and thoughts and views. Proust, she isn’t – but there’s a kind of fellow-feeling there.

The first in the series, My Friends the Miss Boyds, did (I said recently) have some intrinsic interest because of her childhood, although it turns out that the author did NOT grow up on the croft – she just spent her holidays there. This one (the 3rd, we are drawing the veil of charity over the 2nd, Muriel) has a very strange plot: something happens that could easily have filled the book, but which is thrown away…

[LARGE SPOILER]

Janet falls over and is told that without a shadow of a doubt she will never walk again, no way, not a chance. Now guess. How long do you think before….? Never mind that: how many pages? From dreadful accident, via diagnosis, to first twitch: 

20 pages. 

A recent entry was praised for its unusual medical diagnosis, whereas this medical miracle is common in fiction, though sadly not so much in real life - see also: Matthew in Julian Fellowes’ Downton Abbey, Katy in What Katy Did, Colin in The Secret Garden.

But even stranger: this is all pretty much done by p120 (of 234) so you wonder: how is Duncan going to fill up the rest of the book? The answer is 'badly': pages and pages of ‘shall we take Monica to Reachfar or not?’ and then pages and pages of talking with Monica and explaining a whole lot of things that don’t need explaining, except that Monica can tell Janet how wonderful she is.

Obviously I am going to continue with this series a while longer, the books have a terrible magnetic pull.

Links on the blog: My Friends the Miss Boyds here. Upmarket ladies in tweed skirts here and here - in fact, pictures of women in tweeds are surprisingly difficult to find.

The glorious picture is from this ever-entertaining free vintage knitting pattern site.

4 comments:

  1. Well, the book sounds dreadful, but I am eager to hear more about the series. And that picture is wonderful. Old-fashioned couple, yarn in the skeins...

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    1. Yes, loved the picture, makes me want to get knitting... and there will definitely be more entries on this series (for better or worse.)

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  2. Ah, Jane Duncan. My Friend, My Father was far away the best of those of her books I've read. They are mildly enjoyable, with a certain "something" (the terrible magnetic pull you've noted, perhaps ;-) ) but you're right, immensely contrived!

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    1. I haven't got to that one yet, I'll look forward to it. I am mystified by the way they annoy me no end but I can't stop reading them!

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