Reappraising Jane Duncan

Sexuality, Race and Colonialism in the My Friends Novels


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About the Book

Scottish novelist Jane Duncan’s semiautobiographical My Friends series was dismissed by postwar critics as lightweight, at a time when a coterie of “angry young men” monopolized the attention of the British publishing establishment. Yet deeper themes are at play in the 19 novels. Modern readers will recognize feminist motifs, a wide-ranging examination of women’s education and work in the 20th century, a woman’s view of the rising societal tensions of the 1920s and 1930s, and an outsider’s perspective on the racial divide in the soon-to-be-independent West Indies. This book explores Duncan’s body of work, out of print for decades, though sought by loyal fans. Her characters run the gamut—drunken tinkers, Lowland housewives, Irish miners, members of the London fast set and English marchionesses, all portrayed with telling detail. Her novels—two of them recently reprinted for a new generation—reveal a charming and perceptive recorder of the changes Great Britain underwent in the past century.

About the Author(s)

Rita Elizabeth Rippetoe is an independent scholar of genre fiction, with an emphasis on detective fiction. She has written on a variety of subjects, including the works of John le Carré, Dorothy Sayers, and William Faulkner. She lives in Orangevale, California.

Bibliographic Details

Rita Elizabeth Rippetoe

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 196
Bibliographic Info: appendices, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9887-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2799-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
A Note on Language 3
Jane Duncan’s Works 3

Part I: Jane Duncan: The Writer and Her Work 5
Who Was Jane Duncan? 5
“Love Is the Law”: Sexuality and Convention 10
“You Have to Work”: Women’s Labor 26
Archaean Schist in a Volcanic World: Geography from a Reachfar Perspective 40
“Not Like Us”: Race and Ethnicity 55
From Tinker to Toff: Ranking the Friends 66
“The Sun Never Sets”—Until It Does 80
“Take No Notice”: Illness and Disability Among Friends 92
Much Beloved but Soon Forgotten: Critical Reception of Duncan’s Novels 103

Part II: Guides to the Novels 117
My Friends the Miss Boyds 117
My Friend Muriel 121
My Friend Monica 123
My Friend Annie 126
My Friend Sandy 129
My Friend Martha’s Aunt 132
My Friend Flora 134
My Friend Madame Zora 138
My Friend Rose 141
My Friend Cousin Emmie 143
My Friends the Mrs. Millers 146
My Friends from Cairnton 150
My Friend My Father 152
My Friends the Macleans 155
My Friends the Hungry Generation 157
My Friend the Swallow 159
My Friend Sashie 161
My Friends the Misses Kindness 163
My Friends George and Tom 166

Appendix A: Major Characters 171
Appendix B: Scots Vocabulary 176
Works Cited 181
Index 185