Sunday, December 2, 2012

Places in Jane Shaw: Bridge of Sighs

Susan and Midge cross the Bridge of Sighs several times in Where is Susan? One of the things I like most about Jane Shaw's writing is that she manages to create a cosy feeling for any location, even a big city. This is done subtly, but also in a very simple way: she merely reduces distances. In Starting From Glasgow: Jane Shaw's Scotland, Alison Lindsay points out that in The Crew of the Belinda, "the Macfarlanes' morning row up to Tarbet and Inveruglas would have taken several hours more than the book suggests." Distances also seem to be cut in Anything Can Happen, where I get the impression that Paris is made out to be smaller than it really is. Everywhere seems to be just a minute's walk from everywhere else. On the other hand, in Crooks' tour, Paris comes across as much larger, bustling and confusing, as it would have to be to meet the exigencies of the plot. But in Venice, Midge and Susan cover a lot of ground and water in a very short time. The same goes for Wichwood Village, which also comes across as very small and cosy, although the actual walking that the children do would take much longer in real life. The only true exceptions to this rule are the two books set in South Africa (Venture to South Africa and Nothing Happened After All). In these stories, the author goes out of her way to make sure that the reader understands the huge distances involved in driving from place to place. In the other story that involves a lot of driving, Bernese Adventure, the distances seem to be reduced a little, as the characters zip around Europe in the battered old Major Morris.