Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Book Review

Ordeal/What Happened to the Corbetts

Review by John Q McDonald --- 4 August 1997
The Thumbnail Book Reviews

John Q McDonald was good enough to allow us to post this from his very interesting site of book reviews-JRH 8/6/97

In this book, Shute describes the opening bombing raids of a war in Britain. The protagonists, the family of Peter Corbett, live in Southampton, one of the first cities to be heavily bombed. The story mirrors the bombing of England by Germany in WW2 very closely, but was actually published in 1939. Shute studiously avoids mentioning who the enemy is, but as he does mention a satirical cartoon of Hitler and Mussolini, it is clear who he means. The book is decidedly un-dramatic in its depictions of the hardships the family goes through, and in that lies its worth. Shute describes well the isolation and forced independence of people suffering a major disaster. The reality is relatively mundane and a major test of one's patience. I did, however, find it a little difficult to believe Shute's description of a navy bending over backwards for our heroes in the midst of preparing for war. Ordeal also appears under the title What Happened to the Corbetts.