Review: Pastoral by Nevil Shute: Updated


My Interest

This was my pick for Classics Club Spin #30. Then I lost my job. It’s been lingering–and that is NOT due to any faults with the story.

I’ve been reading Nevil Shute’s books. I’ve read A Town Like Alice twice, but must admit I did not recall reading it in Peace Corps when I listened to it a few years ago. Peace Corps was 1989–1991. It was odd that I didn’t remember it though. No matter. I’ve since read another of his books, Far Country, which I loved. Often today it seems books are aimed at either men or women–his books seem to be for both. [Yes, that was also true in his day, I know. Still….]

The Story

“The silvery radiance that filled the clearing, ebbing and flowing with the passing clouds….”

RAF Lt [pilot] Peter Marshall (that name! I kept thinking of THE Peter Marshall–of A Man Called Peter) flies bombers over Germany. Gervase Robinson is a WAAF (woman in the RAF) who deals with signals. A love of nature brings them together. But, this is not a straight forward ‘boy meets girl’ romance. Gervase has principles. And, there’s the war they are serving in.

This is not Downton Abbey. This is the real England. A young man who worked as an insurance agency clerk and a young woman who’d been at home. Peter does mention maybe getting to fly after the war, but he also knows he may need to support a wife and child on his insurance clerk’s salary. That’s very real. Especially for a man with nearly 60 bombing missions completed. Gervase seems to understand that the war is an interlude. She will be at home, getting husband off to work and future children off on the school fun. These are very “real” characters. You can see them moving into a 1920s semi in a smaller city (or, perhaps not–perhaps they’ll live abroad if he flies?) Maybe taking out school fees insurance to be sure the son gets an education if fails the 11 plus. That sort of person.

My Thoughts

“Just an average pilot, marrying one of the girls from his station.”

There was a lot of technical talk about flying and fishing that I could have done without. But, I assume many of the men who read it when it was published enjoyed all of that.

I couldn’t decide if Gervace was a prig or if it was just the lack of knowledge and education on what happens to you when you fall in love. Not knowing what happens to you when the chemistry is so right must be horrible! I had very liberal parents so this wasn’t a problem. But in the 1940s? And all the women’s services (UK and US) beat morality into their “girls” with a big stick. Still, I found it very hard to like Gervase for most of the book. Peter was easy. And, having been so hopeless with guys, I can see that since she became difficult he was even more interested–lol. (The hindsight of being 60 years old.) In the end, I liked and respected her. Still, I think she should have lightened up earlier in the book.

I’m sad there is no sequel.

Note: There is one phrase used near the end that is would be considered very offensive today.

Note: Gervase is such an odd name. I don’t think we have it the USA–even in the era of this book. I’ve only read it before as a man’s name–Beryl Markham’s son was Gervase, if I remember correctly.

Pastoral by Nevil Shute

8 thoughts on “Review: Pastoral by Nevil Shute: Updated

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  1. I just checked my county library system and see that they carry only two of his books: On the Beach and A Town Like Alice. So if I ever want to read any of his other books, I will need to look elsewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s 100% normal for American libraries. He’s very out-of-date now, but those two are considered “classics.” He is very inexpensive on Kindle though. You can get the Kindle Ap free for your phone or Kindle for PC.


      1. I have the Kindle Ap on my computer, tablet & phone! I used to have a Kindle but have been reading regular books lately. Something about having that book in my hands!!


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