Nevil Shute was born in 1899 in London, served as a soldier in World War I, became an aeronautical engineer as well as pilot, began writing novels, helped develop military weapons during World War II, worked in Burma as a war correspondent, then moved his family to Australia after the war. This novel was published about the time he moved to Australia, where he spent the rest of his life.
The story began in England, with attorney Noel Strachan overseeing the estate of a wealthy client who had left everything to his young niece, Jean Paget. The catch was that the money was to be held in trust until she was 35, and until then only Noel could release money to her as he deemed prudent. The rest of the novel followed the three parts of Jean’s life – a lonely life in England, being a prisoner of war in Malaya during World War II, and finally life in Australia with Joe, the soldier she met in Malaya.
The character of Jean is amazing. Instead of being resentful of the terrible events she went through, or of the trustee who held most of her money, she focused on doing things for others. Whether she was a clerk at a leather factory, a penniless prisoner, or the newcomer in a small town, Jean seemed to be able to focus on the needs of the people around her. It was refreshingly different than the “me, me” characters in so many books.
Because the novel was written for an earlier generation, some of the words were unfamiliar to me. I was reading the book on a Kindle so I was able to hold down my finger on the word to pull up the definition. But don’t let that discourage you from reading this story. Stretch your mind – read a book that broadens your vocabulary and shows you what life was like in another place and time.
Note: If you enjoy this book, you may also enjoy “Three Came Home”, an autobiography. Book review here: