What would be a good novel to start with?

Dear Tim,
Thanks for asking me about this. Mist is her only published collection of ghost stories. You may enjoy it more if you think of it as a mix of gothic horror stories and stories based on folktales or myths. She wrote nine other non-William short story collections, as well as three Jimmy books about a younger boy.

Maybe start with one of the novels. How can I recommend them? Well, quite a number are still out of print, so although I will write about them in my biography, I will not mention them now. Another issue is that Crompton wrote forty novels and they are most definitely not all the same. She is best known for writing family sagas and she wrote several, including Family Roundabout. She also wrote: novels about the lives of women (including Millicent Dorrington), in common with other women writers of the period; stories about a group of people at a particular moment in their lives who are on holiday (such as Chedsy Place), from the same family (try Old Man’s Birthday), live in the same village or on the same housing estate; some comic novels (e.g. Journeying Wave, Caroline); or allegories that are not to be read as traditional realism; and several interesting novels set in the Second World War, including Mrs Frensham Describes a Circle.

William, of course, abandons writing to become a rebel (William the Bold), cannot understand why grown-ups waste precious time on railway journeys reading (William Does His Bit), and takes most of the stories he reads literally.

The Outlaws have been reading Robin Hood. It had a special appeal because he was an outlaw like them. Violet suggests that they should “took thingth from rich people to give to poor people, thame ath they did”:

“The suggestion was received in silence. The Outlaws looked at William, the leader…. Violet Elizabeth’s idea appealed to William’s adventure-and-romance-loving soul. But it had one serious drawback. It had been proposed by Violet Elizabeth, for whom William had always professed a profound contempt. His contempt for the proposer (which was almost a point of honour with him) struggled hard with his secret delight at the proposal.” (“William the Philanthropist” in William the Conqueror)

I would love to know what you think about any of the novels you read.

3 thoughts on “What would be a good novel to start with?

  1. Hi Jane,
    Thank you for such a detailed response. I recently started a Facebook group about William and Richmal, and received a recommendation for Family Roundabout on there too, so I’ll definitely have to read that!
    I like the mix of stories that seem to be in Mist, which was re-published a few years ago, so I think I’ll start with that.
    I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts, you have a nice and relatable writing style. I’m so glad that someone is writing about Richmal and bringing fresh light into this largely forgotten author.
    All the best,


  2. If as I have heard you are going to publish a biography of Richmal Crompton in 2022, I am going to be very excited…and I am sure many other William enthusiasts will as well……So far I have really enjoyed and enhanced my knowledge about the author, her life and works through the Mary Cadogan biography of Richmal Crompton (not to mention Cadogans other books relating to the author) and also the earlier one by Kay King. We look forward to the McVeigh Crompton biography to carry on the good work very much….


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