The last book is set towards the twilight of their years, after Janet has been widowed and returned to live in Scotland. However, even though set in the latter half of the 20th C, there are lovely anecdotes that hearken back to the late 19th and early 20th C. In this way (IMO) George and Tom brings us ‘full circle’ back to the early novels (like the Miss Boyds or Flora), with its glimpses into a lost age.
‘Mercy, George, do you mind on old Johnnie’s father, though, that was the whipper-in at the school for a while?’
‘Fine that. He must have been the worst-tempered man in Ross-shire.’
‘We-ell,’ said Tom judicially, ‘he had a fair puckle things to try his temper when you think on it, like you and Donald Boatie rowing along about ten yards from the beach shouting impudence at him when you should have been in the Dominie’s history class.’
‘I don’t know how it was,’ George told Roddy apologetically, ‘but I never took to the schooling, like.’
‘And it wasn’t that George was thick in the head,’ Tom assured Roddy now. ‘Donald Boatie that used to slip the school with him was as thick in the head as shit in a bottle but George was never thick. I think myself that there was too many words in school for George’s liking.’
‘Words?’ Roddy enquired.
‘Yes. People speaking and preaching at you all day. Words only make a muddle o’ things half the time whatever.’
‘I am rather in favour of words myself,’ Roddy said.
What are your favourite words about George and Tom? Please do share which annecdotes you like especially well – from any of the books.
We know Jane Duncan based all her characters, at least in part, on real people she knew. But how much do you think she pulled together all the annecdotes she could remember about men of their age and period, compiling them into these two characters? Are they archetypes of their class and culture?
Why do you think it took her so long to write a book which focussed on G&T?
Although they always seem to be billed as a double act, there is also information about some clear differences between the two men, and they seem to have taken different paths through their lives. How does this add to the depth of their characterisation?
Old men or timeless? What do you think?