Book #9 – A book you can finish in a day – Just William by Richmal Crompton
Genre: Children’s classic
Country: United Kingdom
Book to TV/Movie Adaptation: Adapted from 1940 onwards for television, film, theatre and radio. More recently adapted for BBC in 2010.
Firstly, let me tell you, I failed at this challenge miserably. I was supposed to be able to finish this book in a day but…. I didn’t. I took five or six days to finish it!
I do not blame myself or the book for this failure at all but wholly give that honour to the internet for sucking my attention into its deep, dark vortex of everything and yet absolutely nothing. Each time. *sigh*
Anyway, back to the topic of this popular children’s classic of the 1920’s and thereafter. I’d never heard of the Just William series when I was growing up. My childhood diet consisted of The Famous Five, Secret Seven, The Five Find-Outers and mostly all other Enid Blyton books. I came across these lovely treasures a few years ago in a little corner of the local supermarket, where a collection of books were being sold at an almost close-to-nothing price. I picked up three of these gems and thought to myself, “For this price, how bad can they be?” I was wrong. They were not bad at all, they were BRILLIANT!
The collection of short stories are about William Brown, a little boy of eleven who has been born with the world’s most mischievous and restless bones in his body. He lives with his parents, an elder college-going brother Robert, a teenage sister Ethel and a dog called Jumble. William is the cause of constant grief in his household due to his free-spirited and oblivious-to-destruction nature.
A wild, runaway imagination and a gang of three other boys are his best friends. The four – William, Ginger, Henry and Douglas – call themselves the Outlaws and their past times include going on adventures, pretend kidnapping, playing Red Indians and consuming an extraordinary amount of sweets. Ah! Such fun!
Well, maybe not so much fun for his family! William is a vandal (as most mischievous boys are!) and he simply doesn’t understand why his father confiscates his favourite bow-and-arrow (after he breaks his neighbour’s windows) or why his own brother doesn’t want him around (after he unknowingly let slip of his brother’s hidden affections to a pretty girl and breaks his bicycle at the same time!) or why his parents won’t trust him to have a house party for his friends in their absence (after he and his friends devour ALL the food in the larder and wreck the house!)
Ginger found a splendid hiding-place in Robert’s bed, where his boots left a perfect impression of their muddy soles in several places. Henry found another in Ethel’s wardrobe, crouching upon her satin evening shoes among her evening dresses. George banged the drawing-room door with such violence that the handle came off in his hand. Douglas became entangled in the dining-room curtain, which yielded to his struggles and descended upon him and an old china bowl upon the sideboard. It was such a party as none of them had dreamed of; it was bliss undiluted. The house was full of shouting and yelling, of running to and fro of small boys mingled with subterranean murmurs of cook’s rage. Cook was uttering horrible imprecations and hurling lumps of coal at the door. She was Irish and longed to return to the fray.
I love Crompton’s style of writing. She describes characters, scenes and exaggerates William’s deviously boyish inner thoughts almost poetically.
The day of the ordeal drew nearer and nearer, and William’s spirits sank lower and lower. His life seemed to stretch before him – youth, manhood, and old age – dreary and desolate, filled only with humiliation and shame. His prestige and reputation would be blasted forever. He would no longer be William – the Red Indian, the pirate, the daredevil. He would simply be the Boy Who Went to a Wedding Dressed in White Satin. His cheeks grew hot at the thought. His life for years afterwards would consist solely in the avenging of insults. He followed the figure of the blushing bride-to-be with a baleful glare. In his worst moments, he contemplated murder.
Just William is the first of 39 books in the series and I found an e-book version for this challenge. The books are laugh-out-loud funny and one cannot help but wonder how Crompton came up with such hilarious and creative tales, enough to fill 39 of them. While reading this book, I was wondering if she knew of such naughty boys personally or was one of the naughty ones herself or just had a naturally overactive imagination! You will cringe at the things William does, they are that destructive!
He reminded me of Dennis the Menace and maybe, just maybe J.K. Rowling must have had this little boy in mind when she wrote, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” After all, boys will be boys! 😉
Book Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.