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Pied Piper (Vintage Classics) [Paperback]

Nevil Shute , John Boyne
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Sep 2009 Vintage Classics


John Howard is determined to brighten up his old age by taking a fishing trip to France. However, during his stay the Nazis invade and he is forced to try to escape back to England with the two small children of some friends who are forced to stay behind in order to help the Allied war effort. As the conflict grows closer the roads become impassable and Howard also comes across five more children who need his help. He ends up leading this motley group of youngsters through the French countryside, constantly beset by danger yet heroically protecting his charges.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics (3 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099530228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099530220
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 90,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nevil Shute Norway was born on 17 January 1899 in Ealing, London. After attending the Dragon School and Shrewsbury School, he studied Engineering Science at Balliol College, Oxford. He worked as an aeronautical engineer and published his first novel, Marazan, in 1926. In 1931 he married Frances Mary Heaton and they went on to have two daughters. During the Second World War he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve where he worked on developing secret weapons. After the war he continued to write and settled in Australia where he lived until his death on 12 January 1960. His most celebrated novels include Pied Piper (1942), No Highway (1948), A Town Like Alice (1950) and On the Beach (1957).

Product Description


"Mr Shute not only writes vividly and excitingly of occupied France, but with a delightful understanding of children" (Sunday Times)

"A small masterpiece...a book about frail but indomitable old age, simple kindness, childhood, and courage in dark confusing danger. It is not sentimental but prosaic and suspenseful on every page...it conjures up the country of the 1940's, and gently acclaims the value of ordinary decency in wicked times" (Libby Purves)

"A brilliantly descriptive writer, a master of suspense" (David Holloway)

"Exhibits his talents at their provocative best" (New York Times)

"That shattering, unaffected, literary style of his is wholly deceptive...is, in fact, masterly" (H.E. Bates)

Book Description

A classic adventure from the author of A Town Like Alice and On the Beach

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Shute wrote this in 1942, and the story plays around spring 1940. It is very much a story of its time, and about those dark days when everything was going wrong for the French, and for the English. This was true for their countries; but also very much for individuals like 70-year old Mr Howard, on a fishing holiday in the Jura to forget a personal bereavement. I don't want to give the storyline away, but it starts small, and keeps growing; both the problems, and the solutions. It is very much a Shute book about the lone individual dealing with immense problems, and discovering unsuspecting humanity in many people. It is a sad and warm book at the same time.
For me this is not yet Shute at his peak - I think he reached that a bit later. Hence the four stars. But they are four stars only compared to some of his later books - this slightly old-fashioned story is still head and shoulders above most other novels!
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A triumph for the small man 28 May 2001
By A Customer
I first read the Pied Piper at school. It is a classic Nevil Shute - a ordinary man, placed in an extraordinary situation and making the most of it.
The story concerns a retired businessman, who after the death of his son goes to the South of France in the early part of the war. The Germany army seems far away and he spends the time fishing. However as invading troups move South he decides to return home. He is asked to take a young brother and sister, these are just the first of a number of children he acquires as be tries to return to England.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story.... 7 Jan 2005
I have just finished reading this book. I remember Nevil Shute from my school days. I thought I might find this book a bit old fashioned but gave it a go anyway. Obviously it is of its time but is a great story told in a classic way. The tension is built superbly throughout the book. Having three kids myself I was expecting the descriptions of the children and their behaviour to be weak. I was suprised at how believable it is though. He cleverly uses the children in the book and builds on the relationships between them. This is a great read and highly recommended.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still Caught After All These Years! 3 Sep 2007
I first read this book as a child when, identifying with the children who could have been my compeers, I saw the movie at least five times. I loved the book then, and I love it now. The story is simply told, from the point of view of an elderly Englishman, whom we first meet in his London club during the Blitz. Too exhausted to move to a shelter, he begins to tell his tale to a stranger, who has also decided to sit out the raid, while the Luftwaffe's incendiary bombs fall closer and closer. The old man's story unfolds slowly as he tells of a fishing holiday in the Jura--the mountains that border France and Switzerland--in the early months of 1939. The story may, in fact, unfold a bit too slowly for some modern readers who have been exposed to the terse squibs that proliferate novels nowadays, but Nevil Shute is such a skillful storyteller that he draws the reader almost unawares into the narrative, rather in the manner of an expert angler reeling in his fish.

Even though I know the story well, I could not put the book down until the very end. I was, after all these years, inextricably hooked.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As readable as a book can be 13 Dec 2011
I'm guessing that those who haven't read this book, haven't read Nevil Shute before. This book is typical of Shute's middle period, in other words, just about as good as he gets. Shute wasn't a great writer, in the sense that he didn't write any classical works of great literature like, say, Arnold Bennett or Dickens. But, Shute was certainly a very good writer; virtually all his books are insightful, interesting, entertaining, and easy to read. By which, I do not mean they are kids books; just technically very good English from the point of view of readability. Shute's books are also exciting in an easy-paced manner, he was a master at building and holding tension in a way that the reader barely notices until, all of a sudden, you realise you can't put the thing down. This makes his books very easy to re-read, again and again.

The Pied Piper follows the trail of 70-year old John Howard, a retired British solicitor on holiday, through France at the outbreak of WW II. The description of the effect of their lightning defeat on the French is masterful. But the essence of the plot is Howard's attempts to get back to Britain, through increasing mayhem and failure of all the systems we take for granted, accumulating a varied collection of children on the way. There is violence in this book, obviously the setting demands it, but it is never gratuitous. Rather, the violence makes the narrative believable, enhances understanding of existing characters, and introduces new ones. Children in novels are rarely believable, largely because they are incidental to the plot and the author has forgotten childhood. Neither of these things applies to this book; not only does Shute understand children, but he knows how to make them important in themselves, characters demanding and deserving respect - a rare skill. As I write this, I've just promoted this book from 4 to 5 stars. I've never done that before!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable! 24 Aug 2010
I had actually never come across the works of Nevil Shute until recently, but 'Pied Piper' makes me want to read more. The gentle but resilient character of John Howard is one of the most endearing in twentieth-century literature, and the contrast between his good deeds and the horrors of war around him creates an uplifting and optimistic view of human nature under duress.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
A good story
Published 7 days ago by allan
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A classic read.
Published 8 days ago by Richard
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
All good thankyou
Published 14 days ago by jan rowsell
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful story well told
wonderful story well told , found it very dificult to put down, just wanted to go on reading it. well worth bying to give to a friend .. wrinkley
Published 1 month ago by wrinkly
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I had forgotten what a good writer Nevil Shute was.
Published 1 month ago by Gill
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent, have read before and will again. Beautifully written book.
Published 2 months ago by Mrs. P. Butler
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring
This is the story of a man travelling with two children through occupied France during the war. it is one of the most memorable books I have read for a precise reason. Read more
Published 2 months ago by hfffoman
5.0 out of 5 stars A book from childhood to read with my 10 yr old
I plucked this from my Father's bookshelf at the beginning of one long, hot summer & found myself transported from my sunny back garden in a small village to the sights, sounds &... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Faithead
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Shute
This was a good read and definitely a Nevil Shute classic. I certainly found it to be quite compulsive reading.
Published 4 months ago by Moira C
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming and timeless
A beautiful, heartwarming and encapsulating story about an elderly English man holidaying in France during World War II and coping with feelings of uselessness' and getting over... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Gary Selikow
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