Friday, June 24, 2011

An Old Captivity by Nevil Shute

46. An Old Captivity
by Nevil Shute
fiction, 1940
Kindle book - 26
finished, 6/9/11

This is one of the strangest books I've ever read. I can't imagine anyone reading it. Yet, I did. And I enjoyed it. There's just something about the way Nevil Shute writes that rivets me to the page, no matter what he is saying. An Oxford don wants to fly over Greenland and take pictures to see if he can learn who settled there long ago. He needs a flyer, and ends up hiring Donald Ross. The professor's disagreeable daughter decides she must go along to watch over her aging (not quite 60!) father. This will add weight to the plane, and the pilot must eliminate baggage to accomodate her 100 pounds. So that's the premise. The rest of the book is about how they get there, all the problems in flying and landing because of the weather. And then the pilot, exhausted from the constant work he must do on the plane, and taking sleeping pills, falls into a sort of dream state where he finds himself reincarnated back in time to a Viking. Sound interesting? I didn't think so. But it is. Why? I can't really tell you. We barely get to know these characters. They don't get to know one another, except at some point the girl and the pilot fall in love. Huh? How did that happen? Must be all that proximity with no other young people about. Do I recommend it? Yeah, but with reservations. This may help. If you read A Town Like Alice and didn't mind the rather in-depth sections on communications, then you might like this. Except that Alice had so much more going on. If you liked Trustee From The Toolroom, and didn't mind all the technical stuff, then you might like this. Except that book had good character descriptions. So, that's why this book really stands alone in my mind. But yes, I liked it well enough.


  1. It certainly does sound odd. You know I love Shute, but I think that some of his plots are just created so he ca write about planes and flying.

  2. Vintage Neville Shute - and I absolutely loved it when I read it many years ago, and periodically do so again and again. Maybe it was because at the time I was learning to fly; maybe because I am fascinated by history, geography, and what happens to the body and mind when it is overstretched.

    It all rings true, because NS was an aircraft engineer and a pilot himself. Clever stuff actually and beautifully written. (see my new book-blog - only t created on Tuesday - - I'll now have to list it there amongst 'my favourite reads') Good to hear another opinion, though.

  3. I haven't read anything by Nevil Shute for years. And I haven't read many of his books, but like most of what I've read. Oh yes, I did like Trustee From The Toolroom - so I think I'll try to get hold of this book.

  4. It's been YEARS since I read the Nevil Shute books and I don't really remember much about any of them. I must have liked them as I read all of them I could find. Maybe it is time for a re-read. Add that to a long list, including Miss Read, a big favorite.

  5. I have been thinking about his book, read years and years ago, On the Beach, recently - so it was almost startling to see your post. Do you like Alice Hoffman? I am reading her The Red Garden and it is quite good.

  6. Truly sounds odd, it does! Wasn't it a bit disappointing, though, that the pilot and the daughter fall in love? It is just so... clichée, isn't it, that there has to be a "love inerest" in a story to make it worthwile?
    I like unusual books. Maybe I'd enjoy this one, too.
    And, as usual, I am in awe seeing how many books you have already read this year - my meagre list looks really embarrassing in comparison; good job we are not in a contest here :-)

  7. Okay well I thought you might be able to help me out. I am looking for my summer reads. It seems as of late that is the only time I have for reading. However, I will avoid this book. I have got some interesting possibilities now though!
    But, "aging' at 60!! YIkes, what is that all about?

  8. I hadn't heard the name Nevil Shute for years, not since In The Wet. My paperback copy (never read) dates from 1953! I remember starting it several times, but never finishing it. The cover says it "is a strange and fascinating tale." It's set in the 1980s, "a world greatly different from the one we know now." Futuristic. Maybe that's why I could never finish it, but now I'm intrigued.

  9. Me too! I loved "Requiem for a Wren" and "A Town like Alice"


  10. Thomas, yes, odd. But I still liked it. It may just be that he is so good at details about things he loves and really knows about.

    Ann, wonderful story! What I just wrote to Thomas, I think is true and goes along with what you said. His knowledge is vast and he shares it so well in his books. I'm not really 'another opinion.' I do like it, though I'm not sure that many people would. :<) I've bookmarked your new blog. Such a great idea.

    Em, I'm glad you want to give it a try. I've really enjoyed Pastoral, Beyond the Black Stump, Ordeal, as well as A Town Like Alice and Trustee From the Toolroom. The only one I've read besides this one since starting the blog is here:

    Joyce, I can see how a reader who likes NS would also like MR. Both are good storytellers and they both write very well.

    Susan, On the Beach is very different from his other books, and I've never been interested in its theme. I don't read AH but my daughter does, and she just read this and enjoyed it.

    Librarian, I don't have an outside job! And honestly, there are lots of people who read tons more than I do. I don't keep track because I care. It is just interesting to me, just like the genre or pub. date.

    An anglo in Quebec, if you are interested, there are lots of book reports listed in the tab under the blog header photo, and also authors in that tab. Most every book I've written about I do really like and recommend. I tend to not finish the ones I don't like so much.

    Barbara, I don't like books or movies set in the future either!

    GG, I haven't read Requiem for a Wren. But I do love A Town Like Alice, both the book and the old tv version.

  11. Have you read The Pied Piper by Nevil Shute? That and Pastorale are my very favorites, but I'd have to say the Pied Piper edges out Pastorale just a little. If you can find the Pied Piper, try and read it -- I'm sure you'd enjoy it especially if you have any interest in World War II fiction. It's about a crusty elderly English gentleman who keeps "collecting" refugee children as he tries to escape from Europe after the German invasion. Highly recommended.

  12. Nan, thanks for your comment re my new blog. And it's been so interesting to read so many views on Neville Shute. Thinking about it, if one came upon NS for the first time now, his books are incredibly dated. I suppose I was fortunate - just the right age to be reading his books not that long after they were published. Re-reading them again now, I can see that the storylines seem forced and stilted, much as was comtemporary drama.

    Thanks, too, for bookmarking my new book blog. Much the same scenario will appear at some point - 'All the Day Long' by Howard Spring, a book I loved in my 30s and now, picking it up again the other day, re-reading it in my 70s, I can hardly bear to do so. Somehow, I am self-destructing the magic of my youth. Have you read it? I'd love to know what you think. Ann, from a long, long way away.

  13. Hmmm, I think I'll pass on this one and get the others read. I still haven't read anything by Shute, but have Pastoral on my shelves just waiting to be picked up!

  14. Jill, a couple people mentioned The Pied Piper in comments to The Far Country, and I bought it! It sounds so good. Thank you. I'm very fond of Pastoral. And I really like one called Ordeal. It was fascinating to me.

  15. Ann, I never, ever mind 'dated.' :<) As soon as I begin a book I seem to be in its time, if that makes sense. This is the only 'odd' one I've yet read by him. Do you know there is a NS email newsletter you can subscribe to? Go here, if you are interested:

    and look to the left for 'newsletters.'

    I haven't read the Howard Spring. Some books I read when I was young are still just as wonderful - by Virginia Woolf, Hemingway, Fitzgerald. And the Miss Reads I first read when my kids were little are still as meaningful to me as they were then. Sometimes we readers are lucky that way.

    Les, I don't think you'd like this at all. And Pastoral is a story I think you could get into. It is quite unique. NS is always an original. No one writes like him

  16. I really enjoyed On the Beach when I read it years ago. It has a great ending and good characters, but that same weird metallic tone. (Hm, maybe it's time for a re-read.)

    P.S. Yes, I have been AWOL from visiting my bloggy neighbors but am catching up now. Sorry!

  17. JG, I haven't had a chance to do all the blog reading I'd like for months now. I think On The Beach is different from all his other books. As is this one. An odd little story. But still, I'm glad I read it.


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