Nina Stibbe – David Nicholls – Bridget Christie and others reveal the books that made them laugh the most.
The Just William books by Richmal Crompton
Chosen by Deborah Moggach
There’s a snobbishness in our literary world that equates laughter with shallowness.
How untrue that is.
But for me and I suspect many others the funniest books of all time are the Just William books.
I suppose they’re for children and I got hooked on them when I was William’s age – 11 – but I still turn to them when I need a rush of joy.
It’s a comfort just knowing they’re sitting on my shelves – shabby in their disintegrating jackets – waiting to welcome me back into the world of William – his fellow Outlaws and his suburban family of anxious mother – remote father and mad spinster aunts.
Richmal Crompton was a peerless writer who understood that the basis for comedy is the disconnect between how we see ourselves and how others see us.
William’s older brother Robert considers himself to be a suave man about town but what we see is a hapless and humourless young chap struggling to maintain his dignity – whose efforts to engage with the opposite sex are constantly sabotaged by his infuriating little sibling.
Ditto Ethel – the vain and beautiful older sister – who also comes a cropper through William’s often well-meaning efforts to help her or more often – get himself out of a scrape.
(ed:..i don’t know how 11yr olds would view them today – but i was a huge just william fan at that age..i think they confirmed for me what idiots i thought adults to be..)