Nevil Shute: a Study in Impeccable Writing


The Knitted Curiosity Cabinet

RequiemForAWren

I read a lot of Nevil Shute as a youngster – growing up in New Zealand, it was natural that his books should be in the library. I enjoyed them; he writes a good yarn, with plenty of action and interesting storylines, and his characters are strong and memorable, particularly the women. But it’s decades since I last read him, and the one I’m reading now I have never read before.

Requiem for a Wren is an exemplar of Shute’s work, and in particular his skill in purveying vast amounts of background through a few terse sentences. He’s a master at providing information without the reader being at all conscious that he’s doing so.

In the first paragraph of Requiem nothing much is happening. The narrator is an airline passenger, and the plane is beginning to descend. But look at how much information he packs into the first two sentences.

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About yvonnemarjot

I was born in Britain, grew up in New Zealand, and now live on an island on the west coast of Scotland. I fit my writing addiction around my teenage sons and a day job with the local Council. I will continue to write even if no-one reads my work, because it’s often the only thing that keeps me sane. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write poems and make up stories, and I once won a case of port in a poetry competition (NZ Listener, May 1996). In December 2012 I won the Britwriters Adult Poetry prize, and my first poetry collection, The Knitted Curiosity Cabinet, was published by Indigo Dreams. My novels, The Calgary Chessman, The Book of Lismore, and Walking on Wild Air are published by Crooked Cat.
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