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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 21 April 2001
Here we follow the exploits of a pilot, Oxford Don and aloof daughter. An expedition by seaplane to trace the origins of a Norse settlement becomes a fascinating tale of drama, intrigue and history. The reader gets more than they bargain for with the clever flip in time but all becomes clear. The development of the characters as the journey progresses will keep all intrigued. Yet another understated read from one of our greatest storytellers.
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on 11 March 2002
I have read this book perhaps five times, so much so that my old copy is falling apart! It is a satisfying story on many levels. Firstly, it is structurally sound. It has an old fashioned beginning, middle and end. Then the reader is led by the thoughts of the protagonist and identifies with his problems, desires and motivations. The characters are well developed and you want them to succeed. You care about them. The pilot's strengths and weaknesses are brought out and the girl's respect for him grows out of old fashioned class prejudice.
As with many of Shute's books, you have to read this one bearing in mind the class structure and ideas of the forties and fifties and the prejudices which middle and upper class Englishment carried around with them. If you can ignore these irritations and go with the flow, this is a hugely enjoyable and absorbing book.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 September 2009
Most people today think nothing of getting on airplane, and a few hours later, arriving at their destination half the world away with no more to complain about than poor service by the stewardess. It wasn't always this way, and even today going to some remote locations has at least some difficulties associated with it. This book details the adventures of three very disparate people, an Oxford don, his class conscious daughter, and an independent-minded pilot as they embark on a trip from England to Greenland during the mid-thirties in an attempt by the professor to prove that the Celts came along with the Norsemen during their exploration and colonization period of about AD1000.

Greenland is not a very hospitable place, with few inhabitants, almost no ports, unpredictable and typically highly inclement weather, and ice-locked most of the year. The preparations needed to go there at the time of this novel were extensive, approaching the level of effort of the Scott and Amundsen polar expeditions, though on a much smaller scale. Almost all of this effort falls on the shoulders of the pilot, from purchasing, assembling and testing an appropriate sea-plane to ordering supplies, obtaining the required documents, setting up logistical support bases, and finding and hiring an appropriately skilled photographer, all while working under a time deadline dictated by Greenland's very short summer.

Nevil's description of all of this work and the thought processes of his pilot are vivid, detailed, and highly believable. While progressing in the story line, his characters are richly developed. There is a natural antipathy between the working-man pilot and the daughter, who has led a very sheltered upper-class life, who naturally can't believe the cost and preparation required for the trip, so naturally believes that the pilot is merely out to pad his own pocket. But once they embark on the trip itself, the pilot's unstinting devotion to his work slowly wins her over, and a very predictable attraction starts to form between the two.

This is very typical of Nevil's work, as he was excellent at characterization and defining romantic attractions in a very believable and satisfying manner. Also typical is the fact that there are no bad guys or any high dramatic tension here. Instead his stories revolve around his characters, often very ordinary people dealing with the very mundane realities of life. This is a somewhat slow-moving book, typical of English novels written prior to WWII, but once adjusted to this novel's pace, I had no trouble remaining engrossed in the story.

There are some items here, though, that are not so good. Shute was an avionics engineer, and his knowledge of airplanes is very much on display here, probably a little too much so, with too many details about the plane gone over multiple times. There is a section near the end that digresses violently from the main story, almost a separate story in itself, that I did not think Shute did a proper job of preparing the reader for. The final ending that ties the main story and this other one together reeks of mysticism and was, I felt, unnecessary to completing his character's story arc.

Still, a very likeable read, probably not at the incredibly high level of things like his On the Beach or A Town Like Alice, but worthwhile reading.

---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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on 29 June 2013
This is another of Shute's books that I have read and re-read over the past 40 or so years. I would not want to say too much about the plot for fear of giving anything away. But it is in essence a ghost story, but not one to leave one fearful or distressed. For it is also a love story whose end Shute leaves his readers to guess.
This is really one of his very best. I have read all of Shute's fictional works, and this is among the two or three than I consider to be his finest. I would thoroughly recommend it to all who have only recently discovered how readable he is, quaintly dated though he may be. But is is the datedness that is its real charm.
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on 2 April 2015
This one of Neville Shute's best yarns. It is has all the characteristic features which attract some readers, and alienate others; and I fall into the former category.

A pilot takes on the job of organising an expedition for an academic archaeologist, subsidised by his wealthy brother, who wants to research a remote area of Greenland.The apparently spoilt and brattish, but clever grown-up daughter of the academic comes along...Neville Shute's strength was impeccably good research, and plausible accuracy of detail - especially on anything to do with aviation, sailing, or engineering. And in this novel, there is detail in abundance on the technicalities of the dangerous and adventurous aviation involved at the time. One will love this (especially pilots), or loathe it, depending on your interests. The heroes in Neville Shute novels, as in this one, tend to be people with a vocation - good sorts, whose tenacious devotion to tasks is movingly admirable. The worlds of his novels are predominantly peopled with fundamentally decent people. There are many anachronisms of his era, including a condescension to women, which sometimes may seem awkwardly chauvinistic. This particular novel has strange twist - far removed from the common-sense reality one normally associates with this author...but I won't give the game away.
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on 25 January 2014
There's something incredibly reassuring reading this book. Time, love and archaeology rolled into one. Time and the discovery of a real Norse settlement in Newfoundland make the details wrong, but Shute's description of the voyage is brilliant. The flights, and characters are all well rounded and all live on the pages. A great book.
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on 18 February 2015
Nevil Shute is an amazing author,every novel starts off slowly with amazing pictures and descriptions building up the athmosphere,this story twists and bends interweaving relationships and charactesr like a slowly developing masterpiece.
It has pace,power and a gripping finish.

I thoroughly recommend it.
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on 30 October 2014
One of my favourite of Nevil Shute's books. The ancient love story is so delicately written and the question left k. Your mind - was it real, or just a half remembered memory brought back by fatigue? A clever bringing together of old myths and archaeology together with Shute's favourite subject of aircraft maintenance. And an insight into early air travel!
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on 19 July 2016
A rather tedious story line. I found the characters very believable for the times in which they existed but I really had to concentrate to get to the end of the book. It was the Viking part I was really interested in and is the main reason I bought the book in the first place, but this forms such a small section of the book. I was quite disappointed really.
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Great read of bygone era involving adventurous air travel when this was considred a very risky business. Relationships in stressful conditions however also emphasis on professional quiet decent behaviour winning out. Made me want to be a better person.
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