Tuesday, 17 December 2013

2013 Top Ten Best Reads - Number 3

Nevil Shute
Nevil Shute lived from 1899 - 1960 and is one of my favourite story-tellers. He has written two of my favourite books, On the Beach and Pied Piper, both of which I've read 3 or 4 times. I must say it took me awhile to experiment with some of his other books, but this past year I picked The Far Country as one of my 12 + 2 Reading Group Challenge selections. I have to say I was hesitant to read it as I thought it might be more of a straight romance novel. But I should have known better, it's all that and more. It is my Number 3 Best Read for 2013.

The Far Country was first published in 1952 and is set just after World War II. It tells of a gloomy, post - war United Kingdom, where food is still in short supply, hospitals are over worked, the Socialist Labour government is having difficulties coping. In comparison, Australia is a land of relative wealth, the far frontier. The story deals mainly with Jane and Jack Dorman who own and run a farm in Australia and are finally making money off the sale of their wool. Jane is from England (estranged from her parents for falling in love with and marrying this Australian chap) and has been sending food to her aunt in England. Without trying to ruin the story for you, their niece, Jennifer comes to Australia as part of her Aunt's bequest to try and seek a new life in this Far Country and stays with Jane and Jack until her job is available in Perth. While there, various incidents conspire to have her meet a Czech doctor, Carl Zlinter, a 'New' Australian. I'll leave it there for you to read and find out the rest. However, let me say that Shute's story - telling is at his best in this story. It's a touching, wonderful story of depression, hope, romance, life. Shute has an understated way of telling his stories. He can make big events seem normal and maybe by doing so, makes them seem more important; if that makes sense. In Pied Piper, an old man must travel across France in the midst of the Nazi invasion, accompanied by a number of children; English, French and try to bring them to safety in England. His actions are heroic, but his understated, matter-of-a-fact way of accomplishing this deed, makes his actions seem even more heroic. In On the Beach, he covers as profound subject as the end of the world, but the actions of the main characters in his story, the US Navy Submarine Commander, far from home in Australia, and his Australian friends are so considered and thoughtful, that rather than feeling depressed (mind you, that feeling is brought out to), but the dignified way this tragedy is dealt with, makes you feel positive for those people (don't think I'm saying that right). In The Far Country, what seems a simple story of two people who meet and fall in love is told in such a manner that you are drawn in and your feelings for these people are brought to the surface and you can't but help feel the poignancy of their feelings and want them to end up together.. Gad, once again, I'm not saying it right. Simply put, a lovely story of people coping with a new world after the monumental events of World War II changed the world, but still brought two people together to fall in love.. I didn't think I was a romantic..

Anyway, The Far Country is my Number 3 Best Read of 2013. I've attached my Goodreads bookshelf review as well. maybe I provide my thoughts a bit better there. :0)

"In its way, it's a relatively simple story, but I love Shute's style. He tells a story gently, lovingly and at the same time, matter-of-factly (Is that a proper word? :0)). At its core it's a love story, but it represents its time as well. Set after WWII, England is struggling to feed its people, life is hard; whereas in counterpoint, in Australia, the frontier so to speak, life is pretty good, wool prices are high, money is good, there is work available. Helen goes to England at the request of her auntie, who thinks Australia might represent England more from her time in the early 1900s. Helen visits with an Aunt and her family, meets Carl, a Czech doctor, who works in the forest as a lumberman (as a Displaced Person from the war) he must work where the Australians let him for 2 years as a sort of payment for being allowed to live in Australia. He can then work towards getting his Doctor's certificate. The two meet under very interesting circumstances, a friendship/ relationship develops. This is the simple story, but there is so much more. Shute doesn't get involved in the politics of the time, other than in the background as it affects peoples' lives, but he does present an excellent picture of the time, contrasting life in England and Australia very nicely and very simply. It's a lovely story, not one I would have picked earlier in my life I don't think, but the more I read Nevil Shute's stories (two of my all-time favourites are his, On the Beach and Pied Piper) the more I enjoy his writing and the more of his books I want to read. Highly recommended."

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