By David Orames
The Far Country is the story of a London girl who visits Australia and meets a displaced doctor from Czechoslavakia, in the unlikely location of a timber cutting area, and various adventures which, as in most of Nevil Shutes books, end up 'happily ever after'. It is a totally believable story, it is just the sort of thing that could have happened in the 1950's in England and Australia.
I have paperback copies of all Nevil Shutes books, collected from the time I first discovered him in 1965. The Far Country is the most read, to judge by its tattered state! The main reason I enjoy this story is that I can relate totally to the accurate descriptions he gives of London, Leicester, Melbourne, and the mountain country in the north east of the State of Victoria where the fictitious Lamirra is located. I lived in England for 2 years, and in the part of Australia he refers to for 20 years, and this book is so true-to-life!
As he describes the towns of Woods Point and Merrijig, and the Howqua, they must have been just like that in the 1950's when I can only assume Nevil spent a fair bit of time visiting there. The only thing that changed that area for all time, after Nevil visited there, was the creation of Lake Eildon, a very pleasant recreational water reservoir made by damming some valleys in the region of The Far Country.
His descriptions of the bush fires are graphically correct - I lived at Albury (mentioned in the book, incorrectly spelled once) during a bush fire, and a fireman friend described exactly the same situation where the hot weather vaporises the eucalypus resin, and the fire leaps miles at a time. Anybody caught in the path has a very unpleasant and dangerous time as the fire goes by.
The Windsor Hotel in Melbourne sounds just like the hotel at the top of Melbourne city near Parliament House - maybe it IS called the Windsor - I was never affluent enough to go there! The way sheep farmers became very wealthy was commonplace in Australia inthe period after the World War, and Nevil describes well how typical farmers would have reacted to their sudden wealth.
And as he describes Leicester, and the railway station and doctor's home: when I was living in Leicester I tried to retrace the path he describes, from the station to home to railway cafe. The area around that part of Leicester fitted exactly with the book description. Now, 30 years later urban renewal has probably changed that for ever!
He describes the Australian summer and the English winter so well that it makes one sweat and shiver just to read them.
A made-for-TV movie of this book was shown in the mid 1980's, Australia made. The Australian scenes as I recall were very lifelike. The town of Yackandandah in the mountain region of Australia was used for filming street scenes of Banbury, and a hotel there was renamed the Queens Head for the occasion. Last time I was there, it was still wearing its movie paint job. That movie kept close to the original story line, and I am very annoyed with myself for accidentally erasing my videotaped version. The English segments of the movie were unfortunately all too obviously staged in Melbourne streets, with the occasional Bobby and red pillar box added.
All in all, an excellent book I feel. As the back of the paperback notes, from the Evening Standard "What lifts this into the Book-of-the-Month class is Nevil Shute's gift for investing an everyday story with a warm appealing humanity. He is a romantic who finds his themes in down-to-earth reality."
David Orames January 1998