Monday, April 11, 2016

Post 1000: A Job for Susan

Quote of the Day

"Yes, well, I don't think the directors of the bank or Mr. Abercorn or anybody would single out Tessa and me. Bill, run down to your house and see if there aren't any more letters-"
There were: one for Midge and one for Bill. Bill brought them back, panting, and they sat round the fire and gazed happily at their cheques.
"Six pounds fifteen and five pounds," said Bill. "Now I've got eleven pounds fifteen! Great!"
"Well I don't know," said Midge cynically. "Look at Bill, he slaved away at scrubbing and baby-sitting and cutting holly and paper rounds and what did he make? Feathers. And just by pure luck, he gets money from Charlotte and money from a rare penny and money from the bank. That sort of thing," she said happily, "puts you off work."

From A JOB FOR SUSAN, Chapter 16, Money, Money, Money. The last words of Jane Shaw's last book, published in 1969.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Exile for Jill

Illustration from Chapter 3 of Penny Foolish, Exile for Jill. Penny's little sister escapes from the clutches of the conniving Miss Cook and her accomplice.

Quote of the Day

She was destined for a rude awakening. As soon as Mrs Fergus and she reached Blackwaterfoot to catch the Machrie bus, the news burst upon them. There had been a hold-up at the post-office! A masked man had burst in upon the post-mistress and stolen the mail at the point of a gun. It had happened just as the post-mistress was sealing the mail-bags to send them off in the two o'clock bus to Brodick. The post-mistress had fainted dead away on the floor, and if a visitor hadn't happened to come in, she would have been on the floor yet.

From PENNY FOOLISH, Chapter 10, The Post-Office Raid.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Crooked Sixpence

Quote of the Day

Their faces were scrubbed to a shining cleanliness, their hair was plastered down with water. None of their clothes quite fitted them - you could see the faint outline of its former owner behind each clean but well-worn and patched garment, Penny thought, and she suddenly found them almost unbearably pathetic. At the moment, however, her sympathy was misplaced, for they were all beaming so broadly that they looked as if their cheeks would burst. 

From CROOKED SIXPENCE, Chapter 1, Tudor Boy.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Penny in St Brieuc

In Chapter 4 of Twopence Coloured, Penny goes into a daydream and is separated from her family. She has to find the mysterious michelin to try and catch up with them. However, her French is not quite up to scratch and she has a little communication breakdown. She manages in the end though.

Notes on Twopence Coloured

This week, I started rereading Twopence Coloured, the second book in the Penny series. Some notes:

1. This is Jane Shaw's third book set in Binic. As in the other stories set in the Breton seaside resort, the town is not given its proper name. In Twopence Coloured, it is called Kerdic. The name is explained as meaning the House on the Ic. However, the real name is given in the dedication, "For KATHERINE, remembering Binic". The name Binic means Head of the Ic.

2. In the other three books, the protagonists stay in a chateau. In this book, Penny and her family are guests at the Hôtel de la Plage.

3. It is in this story that Penny and Jill become friends with Laura and John Mallory, who will feature in all the subsequent books (Threepenny Bit, Fourpenny Fair, Fivepenny Mystery and Crooked Sixpence).

4. The book is available in three editions: the original Nelson edition with colour frontispiece; the Brittanic Series with colour frontispiece; and the Triumph, with the same frontispiece but in black and white.

5. All three editions are lavishly illustrated. In addition to the frontis, there are seven illustrations.

Quote of the Day

The bus took them very quickly and dangerously to the middle of Dinard. Then a taxi unnecessarily took them the hundred yards to a rather sordid café where, they were assured, the bus which was to take them the next stage of their journey would certainly start. Nobody could believe it, as anything less like a bus terminus could hardly be imagined.

From TWOPENCE COLOURED, Chapter 4, They Part.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Quote of the Day

By this time she had guided Ricky along the Rue de Berri, into a doorway and down some stairs into a restaurant. It was big, much bigger than the other little place where they had dined the evening before; there were crowds of people and waiters dashing about, but the school tour had settled themselves nicely at some tables in a little gallery slightly raised from the main part of the restaurant and there were two places being kept for Ricky and Julie at a table with Fay and Ruth and Barbara.

From CROOKS TOUR, Chapter 8, The Crook and the Pearls. An example of Jane Shaw's gift for writing extended sentences, with 53 words in the last sentence.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Northmead Nuisance illustration

An illustration from A Plan Gone Wrong, Chapter 7 of Northmead Nuisance. Kay hides in a trunk in the Box Room to avoid detection by Miss Ratcliffe. But so many people suddenly have to visit the room and she ends up getting caught - and punished with two hundred lines.

Notes on Northmead Nuisance

This week I'm rereading Northmead Nuisance and I’ve noticed some parallels between this book and earlier Jane Shaw stories. The author was known for reusing locations (four stories set in Binic, four on Arran, three in South Africa, etc.), but less has been written about her reusing plot devices. Here are some examples:

1. In Susan’s Helping Hand, most of the story is set on Cousin Barbara’s farm. One day, the characters build a bonfire and roast potatoes. In Northmead Nuisance, the characters pay some visits to Aunt Abbie's farm where they also build a bonfire and roast potatoes in it. However, the part about the potatoes is told very briefly, while in SHH, this scene is described in great detail.

2. In Susan’s Helping Hand, the Mad Collector is stealing valuables from wealthy people. In Northmead Nuisance, Aunt Abbie’s community is also suffering from a string of thefts. This time, someone is raiding the poultry farms in the district and helping themselves to chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks.

3. In Susan Pulls the Strings, Susan falls into a freezing duck pond and ends up in bed for several days with flu. In Northmead Nuisance, Judy falls into the pond at Aunt Abbie’s farm. However, she is immediately bundled off to a hot bath and does not even catch a cold.

4. In the Susan books, the not-very-bright Susan has problems with big words and mispronounces them (fizzy-fist instead of physicist, jelly night instead of gelignite, etc.). This joke is rehashed in Chapter 6 of Northmead Nuisance. Lynette is testy during a nocturnal excursion and says “I don’t care if she’s blowing up the school with sticks of jelly-night.”

Quote of the Day

All went well, if somewhat damply, until Judy fell into the old quarry, which they had approached from an unfamiliar direction but which everybody had noticed in time except poor Judy, who was, according to Kay, crashing through the undergrowth like a tank except that even tanks looked where they were going and Judy didn't.
Anyway, it was most alarming; one minute Judy was there and the next she was nothing but a splintering crash and a faint cry in the distance. Everybody immediately flung themselves on their stomachs and peered anxiously over the edge; there was nothing to be seen except a lot of wet bushes.
At last the Sparrow called out helpfully, "Hadn't we better go down and - er - pick up the pieces?"
"Goodness," said Nicky, "you don't think she's in pieces, do you? Judy!" she called anxiously. "JUDY! Where are you-ou-ou?"
"Well, I'm here," came a faint call.
"At least she's alive," said the Sparrow cheerfully.
"Of course she's alive," Kay said crossly. "Judy," she called, "where's here?"
"In a bush," Judy called back.
"Are you all right?"
There was a silence, then Judy called, "Well, sort of!"
"Why only sort of? What's the matter?"
"I'm upside down!"
"Oh, help." Nicky gave a small giggle. "That girl! Trust Judy! Anyone else would have landed the right way up!"

From NORTHMEAD NUISANCE, Chapter 9, Half-Term.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Quote of the Day

"We could just go round and have little wee keek..." Susan suggested cajolingly.
No, they couldn't, said Midge firmly. What kind of a little wee keek would they get in the pitch dark? Susan's mother came in just then, with the suggestion that the girls might start making themselves useful, setting the table for supper and so on... And then Susan's father came home from his office. Much to Tessa's relief it was a nice, cosy, peaceful evening after all, with no more worrying talk about Bluebeard's Chamber. Thank goodness, she thought, Susan has forgotten all about it...
She should have known Susan better.

From A JOB FOR SUSAN, Chapter 3, Encounter with an Ogre.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Petit Chose

I have often wondered why Madame's chateau in Breton Holiday is called Petit Chose. In French, the word chose is feminine, so the adjective should be petite rather than petit. Surely Jane Shaw, the perfectionist, would not make a mistake like that. Nor would Collins' highly trained proofreaders have let it go unquestioned. But over the years, having studied many Latin-based languages, I've learned that languages have many nuances. In Portuguese, for example, there are words that are both masculine and feminine but with different meanings for each gender. Let's take the word cara.

um cara = a guy, man
uma cara = a face

Could it be that the word chose in French has a masculine form or meaning that most foreign students are unaware of? I set out to discover, with a Google search for "le petit chose". The answer appeared at once. Le Petit Chose is the title of the autobiography of French author Alphonse Daudet, written in 1868, covering the early years of his life. Petit Chose was his nickname. When the book was translated into English, it was given the title Little Good-for-Nothing (1878 edition) and Little What's-His-Name (1898 edition). The book made quite an impact on French culture. Many years later, in 1938, it was made into a movie, just at the time when Jane Shaw was writing Breton Holiday. As far as I know, there is no way of telling whether it was the book or the movie that inspired the author to name the chateau Petit Chose, but the mystery of the masculine adjective for a feminine word has now been cleared up.

Quote of the Day

The rain came that night in good earnest, and the wind howled round Petit Chose; windows rattled and doors banged, and Sara woke up in the middle of the night to find herself lying in a pool of water. Her efforts to shut the window roused Caroline.
"What are you doing?" she demanded.
"Trying to shut this beastly window," Sara panted.
"Well, don't, or we'll suffocate."
"I'd rather suffocate than drown," Sara told her. "My bed's soaking."

From BRETON HOLIDAY, Chapter 12, Sara Does Some Rescue Work.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Moochers Abroad

Quote of the Day

Amanda could stand it no longer. Before Elizabeth could stop her, she put her mouth up to the shutter and said in a low but firm and penetrating voice, "Miss Potts!"
There was a deathly silence within the room. Outside, Amanda stood tense, and Elizabeth began cautously to edge towards the boat - if they were going to run for it, she felt, she preferred a head start.
"Miss Potts," said Amanda again, "can you speak to me? It's me, Amanda-"
To their astonishment, the shutter was unbolted and pushed open and a small anxious face with glasses, surmounted by rather wispy grey hair, appeared.

From AMANDA'S SPIES, Jane Shaw's first published short story from 1941.