I have ‘The Bookboy’ to thank for breaking my troubled time with reading when he kindly lent me ‘Just William’ by Richmal Crompton after we had seen a trailer for the new TV series/movie that is going to be showing over the Christmas period. You see when I was younger I listened to ‘Just William’ on audio (with some very funny memories of Violet Elizabeth Bott ‘squeaming until I’m sick’) but I had never actually read the book, and The Bookboy has very kindly lent me the whole series of ten novels.
‘Just William’, though I am sure most people have read it already, is a collection of tales about William Brown a rather scruffy and outdoorsy eleven year old who very much lives in the world of make believe of Indians and pirates and who sees every day as an adventure, much to the annoyance of his family and the local people he lives near by. That is except for the other local boys with whom he causes all sorts of mischief in their troupe ‘The Outlaws’. This first book sees William in all sorts of japes such as trying to avoid being a page boy, falling for the same woman as his brother – well she does love playing Indians after all, taking over a sweet shop and babysitting all with rather comic and naughty outcomes.
Reading them as an adult I did chuckle quite a few times, I would have loved to have been left a ‘Ye Olde Sweet Shop’ at my disposal at eleven and would quite possibly have ended up in the same situation too, yet what I found the most interesting thing about it was that reading it now it feels like a really insightful insight into society at the time of the 1920’s. For example the father of the family seems to come home from work in a rather bad mood every day, find the children rather a trivial burden and then disappear of to the study and Mum seems to spend most of the day in a frantic whirl despite the fact she has a maid and a cook. It’s slightly stereotyped and yet you can’t help feeling this was possibly the way things simply were at the time in that kind of society. Sorry I have gone all historical and digressed!
I have to admit that I was left wondering if kids nowadays will quite get it. There’s no magic, no ending up lost on a treasure island or monsters to deal with but that was what charmed me in a way. Maybe with the new show coming a new wave of fans will find William Brown, let’s hope so because he is quite the character. I was let down a little by the fact there was no Violet Elizabeth Bott in this collection and I noticed it, I also enjoyed the book a little bit more for the history than the stories but I will continue with them. 6.5/10
I have discovered that Richmal Compton wrote lots and lots of non-William based books which I have a feeling considering the era they were written in I might love. Have any of you tried them?