It is the wet season in the Australian outback. Drunk and delirious, an old ex-pilot known as “Pisspot Stevie” lies dying in a remote cabin in the Queensland bush. When a priest named Roger Hargreaves comes upon him, Stevie is smoking opium to relieve the pain of his last moments. The priest listens as Stevie, in an opium-fueled haze, begins to describe a very different life he once lived - not in the past, but decades in the future, as a mixed-race aviator who finds love and glory in service to the Queen.
After Stevie’s death, as Hargreaves tries to sort dream from reality, he makes discoveries that cause him to wonder if he has been granted a glimpse beyond the veil.
©1981 Nevil Shute Norway (P)1988 Recorded Books, LLC
I have long been a Shute fan. The first time I tried reading this, I didn't pay close enough attention. The book moves from the 1950's to a time some 60 years or so into the future. That doesn't become totally clear till the end.
Unlike Shute's earlier books, this is one of his which delves into some gentle fantasy. It's a fun story and gives quite a picture of the hardiness of the Australian people.
Obviously if one looks at what has happend in the time since this book was written, his predictions are far from real. But, that's part of the fun. The book is written with great compassion for the characters, as with all of Shute's books. Norman Dietz did a very nice job with the performance. I didn't think I would like his reading, but found him very pleasant to listen to. I think he enjoyed the book.
I would give the book and narration more like a 4.4. Shute's descriptions are detailed but interesting. He downplays the difficulties of the narrator, as he often does. For him, "getting on with things" is just what decent people do. I found myself totally captivated by the nonchalance with which the vicar telling the story sums up his life. It sounds like a grueling existance to me, but for him, it's just life.
I love the fact that a good story can be told without graphic descriptions of violence or sex or brutality. All those things are in Shute's novels, but much of it is left to the reader's mind, rather than being a feature of the book. Shute's books are perfectly fine for anyone to read.
I will say that if you are looking for an action based thriller, you won't find it here. Rather, a fascinating look at Australia of the 1950's and what a future in England and the Outback might have been. It's a truly likable and well performed read.
When listening to this one must realize that it is a story from another time and place. Delicately the author navigates his way through the race issues of Australia. Written in the early 1960's with an aviation background the story is narrated with a total command of the geography, culture and history of the Realm.
Note: Everything Nevil Shute has written is good.
This book takes you to England, Canada and Australia through the eyes of an Australian pilot assigned to shuttle the Queen of England on Royal Aircraft. Visits the cultural and political differences of England and Australia through the eyes of both private citizens and royalty. Follow an aspiring pilot's life past and present.
Despite the good story I found myself struggling to get past the narration. Perhaps Norman Dietz is more suited to books without the need to speak in accent. Narrated in an American accent and sounds like Richard Nixon-no British or Aussie at all, which makes it more realistic to me. Just saying....
Shute is always a wonderful listen. This story with its conjecture, just missed the mark by a little. When it was written I think it would have felt fine. Loved the characters, the descriptions and the overall feeling of awe in such a story. I admire him for taking on such a novel. I like the political ideas postulated in the story.
I first read this book in 1962, and have so enjoyed the listening. Nevil Shute is an excellent story-teller, and the narrator Norman Dietz brings forth Mr. Hargreaves just as I had imagined him. You can almost feel the dampness from the constant rain. The Outback in the post-war time, the difficulty of travel, are so vivid. The possible future that is proposed is of course impossible but was interesting at the time of writing.
Two good stories wrapped around a political screed. This is Shute’s near-hysterical jeremiad on why he left England for Australia.
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