Book – My Friend Sandy

Author – Jane Duncan

Year – 1962

Pages – 235

Genre – Semi-autobiographical fiction

Series – My Friends

Bought for me by my Mum.

I thought that for book 250 I should do something special, and what more special than the book that I am named after. Although one of the main characters in the book is called Alexander (Alexander Alexander to give his full name – commonly known as Twice Alexander), it is the eponymous Sandy for whom I am named. Sandy, a traditional shortening of Alexander, has been the name I am known by to my family my whole life. I don’t mean it as a cute nickname that I am sometimes called, but that is my given name at home. Takes a bit of a while to get used to if you are new to the family, but even now in my mid-thirties, that is what I am called. For Christmas last year, my mum bought me this book – one she enjoyed when she was young and was the inspiration for my naming – and this year inscribed it for me. I would have like to have started the new year with it, and tie it in to number 250 together, but I am only a few weeks off!

So on to the book. Janet has just moved to the British West Indies with her husband Twice to live for a while whilst he works there. She meets a strange group of people – the strong, handsome Don, effeminate Sashie, rugged Sir Ian, and of course intelligent, cheeky little Sandy. Struggling to fit in a little, she becomes embroiled in writing a performance to show to the whole island, and is soon caught up in all of their affairs.

My Mum has mentioned the warm feeling that these books give, and it is certainly true. They evoke a kind of nostalgia for things from a bygone past that I have certainly not experienced – a world where technology was simpler and relationships key. There is a simplicity to the writing that is welcoming and some of the stories that the characters tell are beautifully done. The character of Sandy is delightful, and reminds me in so many ways of the characters in the Enid Blyton books I was obsessed with as a child. The story takes a little while to get going, but once it does, it rolls on apace, and paints a vivid picture of a past world.

There are some problematic sections – the book has not aged well when it comes to the representation of the racial divide on the island – and that took me a while to get around. I have a feeling that it may have been seen as quite progressive back at the time, especially with the book being set in 1950 despite its sixties publication date, but some of the views are not exactly what we would expect today. However, the further I read, the more I realised that these views are presented as character thoughts rather than as a commentary on the time, and are regularly shown to be false as a result. As I understand from the reading I have done since, the series charts a range of views over a sixty year period that reflect society at the times that they are set.

Overall, it was great to read a book that has such a special place in my family, and for me in particular. I have gotten rid of quite a fair few books over the past year, but I am positive that this is one that I will be keeping forever.