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Book Review: Requiem for a Wren

Requiem For A Wren

Requiem For A Wren by Nevil Shute

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


4.5★
requiem
noun [ C ] UK ​ /ˈrek.wi.əm/ US ​ /ˈrek.wi.əm/
​a mass (= a Christian ceremony) at which people honour and pray for a dead person:
a requiem mass


Definition from the Cambridge Dictionary

Always one of those words where I wasn’t quite sure of the meaning! Knowing the meaning now makes me understand the book title (although I think the US title The Breaking Wave works even better & doesn’t give away an important part of the story)

I was lucky enough to go into this story almost completely cold. I knew it was a WW2 novel but nothing else. I would like everyone to have the same experience, so don’t want to reveal too much. At the start for me it was almost like a Golden Age mystery where I was trying to work out the clues.

This remained a fascinating story – until once again, Shute doesn’t quite nail the ending. Just the one spoiler (view spoiler)[Poor Viola! (hide spoiler)]

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The Far Country

The Far Country

The Far Country by Nevil Shute

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


4.5★

Back in the day, I read a few of Shute’s novels. I don’t remember any of them clearly, but I know I enjoyed them at the time.

This one is no exception!

Shute (an immigrant to Australia himself) explores some very interesting themes – “New Australians”, the waste of qualified people working in unskilled jobs because their qualifications aren’t recognised in their new country (although fairly recent events in many countries have proved it is a good idea to have very stringent checks to make sure that the qualifications mean what they say!) Australians thinking the grass might be greener on the British side of the fence and having a yearning for what many of them still think of as “home.”

A glancing reference to Jenny not being able to drink in a public bar had me curious. Warning: I am going to ramble. My cover of The Far Country (see picture above)shows Sigrid Thornton in her role as Jenny* (& looking nothing like Shute’s description of Jenny)

Thornton’s mother Merle was a well known feminist who chained herself to a bar in Queensland in 1967 in protest at this discrimination in 1967 This law was repealed in 1970. Similar discriminatory practices did exist in New Zealand as well.

The poverty in the Britain of the 1950s compared to the land of plenty in Australia was also a theme. Shute himself must have found it wonderful to move to such a well endowed land.

I knocked half a star off my rating because there were a few loose ends. Excellent foreshadowing allowed us to predict one important character’s likely fate, but I found the glancing reference to (view spoiler)[ Angela’s fate a bit disappointing. I do wonder if Shute was intending to make Angela a more prominent character. (hide spoiler)] Certainly the ending feels a bit rushed.

*Variable reviews on IMDb, but it sounds like the film doesn’t have much resemblance to Shute’s book.
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091034/…

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