There is something very comforting about a Nevil Shute book and I say that as one who as only read three of them, albeit all within in the last year or so. He has a unpretentious, unassuming style that I find very appealing. Since being introduced to Mr Shute I make sure that whenever I’m in a second-hand book shop I search for his novels. I picked up this pleasingly old copy of ‘In The Wet’ at a Summer Fair for 50p. It came complete with dog bite marks in the top right hand corner and reminds me of the sorts of books (minus the bite marks) my Mum used to choose for my Dad from a mobile library van.
This book was published in the 1953 to coincide with the Queens jubilee. It begins slowly as we are introduced to the Revd Hargreaves, an English priest who has taken up residence in Australia. He meets Stevie an ageing alcoholic with a predilection for opium smoking. Life eventually takes its toll on Stevie and what follows is Stevie’s story. With both Revd Hargreaves and Stevie sick with fever, the priest sits at Stevie’s bed side and listens. A story set in the future is what follows (although it took me a while to realise this).
Stevie now known as ‘nigger’ – an uncomfortable word to read and write in 2015 is a pilot working for the Royal Family at a time when the Queen is trying to escape England and a socialist government that seem out to get her. She is dividing her time between Canada and Australia. . What the reader is given is an insight into the monarchy and governments as Shute imagined they would be in the 1980’s. Much of these imaginings are quite far off the mark but it does include Charles and Anne who in this book are also married with children. There is so much detail about the lives of the characters and their interactions it is a joy to read.
Shute is a skilled story-teller, he weaves a tale slowly building on characters and the environment. If you are looking for a pacey, action packed read then this is probably not for you, but if you are prepared to sit back and be led on a gentle winding journey then I would whole heartedly recommend ‘In The Wet’.
What other Nevil Shute novels would you recommend?