Jane Duncan wrote this autobiography in the  form of open letters in reply to the many letters she had received from fans of her “My friend” books. I read these books when they were first published in the 60s, and enjoyed them so much that I periodically read them all again.

They are classed as novels, but they are really a fictional version of her own life. They were so real and the characterisation so good that I had already decided that they must be based on real life.

Although she was born in the North of Scotland in 1910, and I was born in the English Midlands 29 years later, there were many things I could identify with, and characters very similar to some of my own family.

When I decided, in the 80s, that I would like to read them all again I was disappointed to find that they were out of print and the library only had a few of them (There are 19 in all!)

We began haunting all the second hand bookshops and charity shops and found one or two, and then I had a lucky break.

We were in Southport Lancs. and feeling a bit down after fruitlessly searching a couple of bookshops when we saw a third one. We looked along the shelves, with no luck, so, not expecting much, I asked the shopkeeper if he had any of the books by Jane Duncan. He hadn’t, but another customer turned round and said , “I have!”

She was an amateur bookseller who sold books in aid of Christian missions. She took us home with her, gave us tea and biscuits and then took us up to see her store of books, which was on the top floor of her house.

It was an absolute treasure house. She had, not only 10 of the Jane Duncan books , but many of the books I had had as a child, Dimsie, Chalet School, Just William etc. etc. 

 I would have liked to buy whole cases full, but restricted myself to the Jane Duncan books and a few of the others for Jennie.

Over the years “My friend Eileen” sent me the rest of the set as she acquired them, always at a very reasonable price.

The icing on the cake came when my lovely husband came home with the autobiography, which he had seen on the “sale of old books” shelf at the library, so I have just re-read the whole set back to back, and found them just as thought provoking and fascinating as before.