Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Pastoral - Nevil Shute

Pastoral is a war time romance novel by Nevil Shute. Like most of his novels, this too is built around a World War II RAF base.

The story is pretty simple, a RAF bomber pilot falls in love with a WAAF section officer who refuses to think about marriage since her work is more important to her. She likes him, but still can't make up her mind about marriage. Then on a bombing raid to Hamburg, he gets hit and loses a wing. Improbably he flies back on a single wing, bales out all his crew. But one of them is injured, so the pilot decides to try to land the plane without baling out. The section officer is on duty that night and she is the one listening him on the trasmission.

The story might sound like a mushy romance, but Nevil Shute's writing lifts it to an enjoyable fare. His sentences are simple, he doesn't indulge in verbal gymnastics to impress the reader. His characters are real and at no time does the novel become a melodrama. War is the backdrop, and you are made aware of the ruthlessness of the war constantly. Sample this

She had known so many aircraft to be lost that she had herself lost the faculty of easy grief; that nerve had been so hammered in the last few months that it hardly hurt at all. ...It was so unobtrusive, their manner of going. A lot of aircraft took off in the night and were airborne one by one; a lot of aircaft came in one by one and taxied to dispersal in the darkness. It was only when you came to count them carefully to make a record in a log that you discovered one or two of them had slipped away and travelled to some other place.

It is a light but interesting read. It leaves you happy in the end, and that is saying something about a war novel.


sen said...

Nevile shute is a great author."A Town Like Alice" is another beautiful novel which starts with two people meeting during WW2.nice romantic story.

For me "On the Beach" is nevile shute's best novel.


Chenthil said...

This is the second time I am being told to pick up A Town Like Alice, Senthil. Will definitely read it soon. As you said Nevil Shute was a really under rated author

book worm said...

the best book hes ever written for me is IN THE WET i have read all of his books

Krishna Kumar said...

Chentil does not do justice to this superb book of Nevil Shute. This book would fire the imagination of youth who were students of the 60s or 70s. Having read the book in the 70s when the world was still filled with romantic ideals of heroism and ptriotism it struck me as a love-story that had its great moments eg. The Air hief Marshall overlooking the misuse of official machinery when he finds the wounded airman and Gervase enjoying their moments of romance and the strong characters who were lifelike in a gone by era like the landlady of the mansion who provides use of her property for the RAF pilots as part of her war effort.
The book is full of such inuendos and creates a vison of a beautiful wartime England (also something not there in todays concrete jungle of the UK)....
The book is not maybe Shutes best but even today I yearn to get a copy of it which till a decade ago was available with the British Council.
May Chentils tribe increase and may he read all the other of Shutes novels.
KK Menon