A look at style in Nicholas Shakespeare’s ‘In Tasmania’.


For ever searching for a sense of style, I am want to analyse the first 500 words of anything I read.  So, for what it’s worth, these are my musings of Nicholas’s style in the first words of his book ‘In Tasmania’ :

It opens intriguingly with someone telephoning Nicholas to tell him there is another ‘N. Shakespeare’ in Tasmania. This introduces the book perfectly. We know that he will be on a quest to search out his family roots.  

However within the first paragraph we are distracted from Nicholas with an aside that tells us how his friend had discovered another N. Shakespeare.  Then immediately in the next sentence, Nicholas mentions Argentina and its connection with another near namesake. I would have preferred a slower, more focused presentation of the facts that also included personal reactions.  I would have liked, for example, a paragraph about his friend and his experience when he first came across N. Shakespeare in Tasmania followed by a new paragraph about Nicholas’s previous searching for his namesake. This would have led me more smoothly through his experiences and I could have related more readily to his tale.

When Nicholas meets his namesake, we are given details of what mode of transport was used (a motorbike) and how this meant a great deal to its rider. We are told where we were (in the drive of a house behind an estate) but it isn’t until later that we are given a description of what his namesake looks like. I would have loved to have known what he looked like first, followed by a description of Nicholas’s reaction to meeting him, and then, finally, if he must, mention of the importance of the motorbike. The description of his namesake, when it comes, is excellent, I can picture him immediately, but then I feel cheated. How does his appearance relate to other members of Nicholas’s family? What did Nicholas feel about this encounter? The feelings presented are those of envy for the motorbike i.e. I feel I am being distracted from what appeared to be Nicholas’s initial goal: to find out more about his ancestors but then, who am I to question these things?

Having reacted this way I now resolve to present my characters in a slow, smooth and connected way. A description first, personal reactions next and information given during the encounter, rather than bland statements added in between.  We’ll see …

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2 Responses to “A look at style in Nicholas Shakespeare’s ‘In Tasmania’.”

  1. M T McGuire Says:

    I’m going to have to read the paragraph. Did you enjoy the book enough to recommend it? I read your review.

  2. rjwestwell Says:

    I would recommend it if you are interested in the history of Tasmania. As I said, it is packed full of interesting facts.

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