The JANE books – by Evadne Price

Has anyone read Evadne Price’s Jane Turpin books that, in their day, arguably represented the girl version of JUST WILLIAM?

Or did the JUST WILLIAM books by Richmal Crompton represent the boy version of JANE?

When I first had access to the internet in 1999, there was nothing available about the JANE books.

Now there is a wikipedia.

Frank R Grey illustrated these books (the image above is by him), although I think William Brown’s Thomas Henry illustrated a few early appearances of Jane Turpin.

I found out years ago about the JANE books from P.F. Jeffery – the author of THE WARRIORS OF LOVE series of novels (unconnected to Jane Turpin but does have a character named Jane).

I believe Rhys Hughes‘ new novel THE YOUNG DICTATOR (judging by its first chapter) is in the Jane Turpin tradition, but extrapolated in his inimitable style. Whether that was his intention or not!

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9 responses to “The JANE books – by Evadne Price

  1. Anonymous

    I read and loved the Jane Turpin books as a child. Most were borrowed from the library but I did own a copy of “Jane the Patient” which I most foolishly allowed my mother to give away when I was supposedly an adult. Since then I have found copies of three Jane books in thrift shops. These have been claimed by my elder daughter who rereads them on her infrequent visits home from overseas. The “William” books were not in the race as far as I was concerned, boring little twit as I remember.

  2. Linda

    I too read the Jane series when I was a child and adored them. My mother bought me two or three of them ( at great expense in those days ), and I also let them go and have regretted it ever since. These books were wonderful and I ony wish I could find some in thrift shops but so far I have been unlucky. The other books that I loved were about a family who lived in a town called Otwell – On-The-Ouse but the name evades me – does anyone remember these ?

  3. Janet Richardson

    I read the `Jane` books as a child in the 50s and loved them. My mother introduced them to me and I used to get them out of the library as I think they were out of print. Despite years of trawling second-hand bookshops, I`ve only ever managed to find one – `Jane the Fourth`. I`ve got quite a collection of `William` and Enid Blyton books but would love to find more `Janes`.

  4. The Jane books are much harder to find than the volumes of William’s exploits. The immediate reason for this isn’t difficult to pinpoint: they were reprinted far fewer times. For that reason, Jane books are scarcer and (unless one is talking William first editions) more expensive. I just looked on Abebooks, and found 71 Jane books listed, so they’re not impossible to find. Most of these are from UK sellers, with a scattering of Australians. The cheapest is a copy of ‘Jane the Unlucky’ from a UK seller priced at $25.45 which translates (apparently) as £15.28. Not bad, I think. If I didn’t already own it, I’d snap it up at that price. A little word of caution. The most frequently listed title is ‘Jane & Co’. This is a 1985 reprint book containing stories from several of the old volumes. If you’re thinking of buying the old Jane books, you probably won’t want Jane & Co as well.

    The reasons Jane received fewer reprints than William are multiple, but the quality of the writing and level of humour are not amongst them. The Jane stories are excellent. One factor is that, I believe, girls (in general) are prepared to read books about boys, but not vice versa. (One may observe much the same in that women seem more prepared to watch films primarily designed for men, than men are to watch ones squarely aimed at women.) For this reason, William had a larger market than Jane.

    But there’s more to it than that, I feel sure. Mostly the books were bought by adults to give to children. Partly because of sexist double standards, Jane’s behaviour is likely to have raised (and still to raise) more adult disapproval than William’s activities. Beyond that, the subtext of the Jane stories contain a striking feminist agenda, whereas the William subtext is notably conservative. The latter is unremarkable as William’s author, Richmal Crompton, was a strong supporter of the Conservative Party — and felt that women’s rights had been fully achieved when women gained the vote. It is more difficult to determine Evadne Price’s political views — but, in 1920s Jane stories, she depicted communists much more sympathetically than Richmal Crompton ever did, and she never shows the least sympathy for fascism or Nazism. By contrast, there is a deeply unpleasant William story in which William’s Outlaws decide to become “Nasties” and persecute a Jewish shop keeper. But, with the possible exception of “William and the Nasties”, I think that conservative adults would have regarded the political subtext of the William stories as far more acceptable than that of the Jane stories.

    One might, on that basis, expect Jane to have seen more modern reprinting than William. But Jane combines a more radical agenda than William with being less politically correct. Jane rebels against the comfortable certainties of every generation. Notably, references to corporal punishment can be both explicit and brutal in Jane, while they are all but missing from William.

    I do not wish to disparage the William stories. The pre-war ones are mostly excellent, and the best of them repeatedly make me laugh out loud. (The very best, to my mind, are to be found in ‘William the Conqueror’ and ‘William in Trouble’.) But the Jane stories are treasures of another order: funny, uplifting and unmistakably feminist. They’re worth seeking out at premium prices.

  5. Gillian O'Hare

    I have a very tattered copy of ‘Enter Jane’. Have been re-reading it for 40 years and still get the same delight and wonder from it. The word pictures are far beyond any other ‘children’s’ book I have enjoyed and I would love to read other books in the ‘Jane’ series. Characterisation is so real, it evokes its period so well and if anyone can tell me where I can read more by the author, ‘Jane’ books or otherwise, I would really appreciate it. Thank you.

    • JANET RICHARDSON

      Despite years of trawling through secondhand bookshops I have only managed to find one copy of a “Jane” book – Jane the Fourth. I was introduced to them in the fifties by my mother who`d read them herself as a child and I loved them. I got them from the library but was unable to buy any as they were out of print and have remained so. It`s a shame in view of the fact that “William” books are still very popular and have been made into numerous TV series. Would love to find more of them but I think it`s very unlikely.

  6. Anonymous

    I have recorded a reading of A Day in the Life of Jane Turpin from “Enter Jane”, and put it on my website for listening. Comments/criticisms welcome. It’s not the best reading I’ve ever done of it, but it was recorded live in a single take. It’s at http://www.davidboyce.co.uk/jane-turpins-piano-practice.php

  7. Also owned Jane the Patient it was one of my favourite books as a child as good as the Hiedi books,would love to find them for my grandchildren to read.anntate60@yahoo.co.uk

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