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4.6 out of 5 stars27
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 1 January 2002
Shute's characteristic spareness of prose and compelling story lines are combined with an almost surreal dream re enactment technique which takes us through the lives of the fliers of WW1 in a truly poignant and emotional rollercoaster.
Through a series of 'dreams' we relive the life of Pascoe and his bittersweet love affair with a beautiful novice pilot who he meets after WW1 in his flying school. The attempted rescue of Pascoe by his young friend Clarke is completely rivetting and nerve racking. One of Shute's best tales- believable, exciting and full of historical accuracy about flying in the 1914- 1930 period.
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on 26 January 2012
This is one of Shute's best novels from Australia and is a biography of a WW I pilot who spent the rest of life flying planes. The tale is told using flashbacks from an air smash in the 1950s Australian outback. This is not a device I usually like, since it often kills the pace of a novel. However, here the tension created by the initial crash is very skillfully held to the last few pages, by a series of ingenious plot developments. I had a few problems believing the actions of some of the characters, but here Shute is in the estimable company of Dickens - it doesn't spoil the story-telling. In the course of the novel, Shute gives a highly credible history of the development of aviation which I found utterly compelling. But then, I'm 65, had a childhood passion for anything to do with aircraft and am familiar with all the planes Shute talks about - my Dad was in the RAF. I was a little concerned that younger readers might find this element boring. However, this does not seem to be the case, partly because it is interleaved with a couple of hugely compassionate and essential love stories. I can't go into the detail of the 'crucial insights' I refer to in the title without giving too much away. So, you'll have to take it on trust; this book will make you think about some of your attitudes and examines some very important moral issues that will always be relevant.

It would be easy to dismiss this book as the self-indulgent reminiscing of an author close to his own death. Some of it may be autobiographical, much of it will certainly be based on the stories of people Shute knew, but it is so much more than that. Almost anyone would find something to enjoy in this book, most would read it again!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 December 2015
I read several books in my teens by Nevil Shute but hadn't revisited his work until now. I had forgotten just what a marvellous storyteller he was. His use of language was lovely to read. The whole back ground of this book is flying, from the first world war until 1970's. This isn't a subject that vastly interests me, yet I was enthralled by this book.
The story is simple. Johnny Pascoe has crashed his plane beside a remote farm in the Tasmainian outback whilst trying to land & take an ill child to hospital. This is the story of how Ronnie Clarke, a lifelong aquaintance, tries to land a Dr to save his life. Whilst this is going on we get lengthy flashbacks to Johnny's life & flying career.
The way that this book is written is very clever. It is narrated by Ronnie Clarke so that we get his thoughts & feelings. We also get flashbacks to Johnny's life which are narrated by him. The way that the transition between the 2 timescales is done is very clever & really puts some of the modern writers attempts to do this into the shade.
I liked the way that things are hinted at within the story so you piece things together for yourself & then later they are confirmed. It isn't all spoon fed but neither is it too complicated. This isn't an all action, gripping thriller but there is plenty going on to keep your attention.
Ronnie Clarke isn't really developed as a character as he is really just the person to tell us this story. Too much detail about him would have taken away from the central character of Johnny Pascoe. We hear aout Johnny's life; he isn't a saint but a believable & likeable kind of guy. Flawed & human & not perfect.
We meet a variety of characters throughout this book & I had no problem remembering who was who & from which period of time they belonged.
There were a couple of occasions where the description of planes & flying got a bit tedious. They weren't long periods & didn't make me consider giving up. However they are in there & that is the reason that I haven't given this a "5" rating. If you hit one early on don't be put off, it is worth continuing.
Reading this has made me want to go back & read some more of Nevil Shute's books. He really is a master storyteller.
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on 4 August 2010
This is back to the golden age when authors wrote
from the heart with pure magic, no swearing and from
the heart.
This man gave so much to literature...a gem.
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on 10 June 2007
In my view this is one of Shute's very best books but it seems to have been overlooked by afficionados of the late, great man. It's one of his latter books, that is to say it's written post his exposure to Australia which was the great watershed in his writing, it was going to Australia that opened up a whole new world to Shute, both literally and in the explosive idea that Australia was some kind of new frontier, a latter day wild west where men were men and untrammeled by postwar austerity and, worse, post war socialist dogma. For a full treatment of his loathing of postwar austerity and socialist dogma read "In the Wet", an utterly bizarre piece of work which I am amazed his publishers couldn't talk him out of publishing. However this book is a gripping adventure tale with a slightly spooky Rattiganesque timeshift in it, of the two parallel tales the "modern" one is more engaging, the twenties-set one is rather dated perhaps because he wrote it earlier, realised it wasn't enough for a novel and put it aside for many years? I greatly enjoy the skillful way the plot leads to the "revelation of identity" ... And I was interested in how the book deals with the dilemma of what an unmarried man does with the latter years of his life without the support network of a wife and children. Perhaps his best?
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on 29 August 2015
I have just bought this book for my kindle, having a paperback version that's falling apart from being read. I love Nevil Shute's books, they all contain that element of mysticism somehow that transforms them from your standard aircraft type novels into something quite special. But this, this is the most special one of all. The sheer intensity of the emotions of the bomber pilot and the great love he has for his one girl are vividly depicted. Few writers working today could match this storyteller.

I am busy buying many 'old' authors for my kindle, to preserve the copies I have and to be able to have their magic with me at all times on the equally magical kindle. Nevil Shute is right there at the top of the buying list and this is the first of his books I have bought, as it's the one I love the most.
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on 16 April 2011
a lovely paced story, plenty of twists to hold your interest.understated in the right places, well worth a read.also reccomend. The Trustee From The Toolroom.
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on 28 July 2014
Fantastic book, Shute at his best often overlooked and not even available at our local library . Binding seems quite good and no pages lost whilst reading
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on 4 May 2013
I was brought up as a teenager (just over 50 years ago) in a household where there was always a Nevil Shute book on the library shelf. If you look for book that contains old fashioned values in the storyline then you will find them here - it is good to slip back to these occasionally. Having read all of the NS books before, this one has a good story but is heavily biased (as almost all of his books are) to aircraft and flight and an interest here will help the reader have a better appreciation. This is one of the best he has written and will make a good read.
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on 7 September 2010
Wow. I found this book utterly absorbing & could'nt put it down. In your mind you will be in the story with them.
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