Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter December 2017

Letters to the Editor

FROM Donna Baker

I think the books of Geoffrey Household might appeal to Shute fans. They are different in many ways and each book is different in itself, but written with the same meticulous attention to detail and the same ‘British’ quality which is such a thread in Nevil Shute’s books. His most famous book was Rogue Male, which was filmed with Peter O’Toole, and he followed it many years later with a sequel ‘Rogue Justice’. 

FROM John Anderson

Carry Geysel-Vonck
A member of the Dutch Nevil Shute book group brought in an article form Libelle, the Dutch women's magazine. This was about the wartime experiences of Carry Geysel-Vonck in Sumatra during the Japanese occupation. Nevil Shute met the Geysel-Voncks in 1949 on his flight back from Australia, and it was Carry's story of survival that inspired the character of Jean Paget in a Town Like Alice.
The article is now being translated into English. With that and some background research, we hope to be able to give a full account of this remarkable woman's story of courage and survival during her captivity.

FROM Ralph Nickerson

 I have just read, or re-read after decades, two super Shute novels in fairly quick succession; namely "Pastoral" and "Requiem for a Wren", and if, as a result, I'm currently looking back at the 40s and 50s with slightly rose-tinted spectacles, well, isn't that typical of the Shute magic?
    "Pastoral" is a relatively short and simple tale, centred on a UK bomber airfield in 1943, but still proves a gripping and delightful read. Written in the 3rd person (by an observer who cunningly makes his appearance right at the very end) it is splendidly informative on that especial sector of WW2, and also of Oxfordshire countryside pursuits through the seasons. But far more than that it is a totally believable drama of courage and high duty - which few of us British mortals have had to exercise since those heroic (and terrible) times. As a mere male, I was incidentally impressed by how instinctively Shute is able to present matters so credibly from a woman's point of view: but I leave it to the ladies to corroborate that point, or otherwise...
    The very title of "Requiem" is alone poignant enough to evoke pity and sympathy with someone, somewhere - and the story in no way disappoints. Beginning and ending on a faintly-idealised Australian sheep station (well, Shute loved the country enough to forsake his native England and settle there himself) this brillianly-told tale covers a period from 1944 to 1953. Most of the action is set in southern England during those uniquely hectic months around D-Day and the Normandy Invasion, and in the subsequent years of postwar austerity. The pictures drawn of that never-to-be-equalled Invasion Armada, and its attendant servicing, are instructive indeed.  The time-frames which serve to build up a portrait of the eponymous Wren vary constantly from '44 to '53, but Shute handles the whole narrative with such consumate skill that one is never in the slightest irritated or confused by the practice.  He was a Master Narrator, indeed, and one wonders (at least I do) just how long it took to draft and craft the whole story so seamlessly. And again, his empathy with a female point of view is to me quite outstanding.
    "Requiem", as intimated from the outset, is an often sombre tale replete with forboding, and is quite gut-wrenching on occasion.  But somehow the reader hopes that good may emerge from the evil of war, and some joy from all the graft and sorrow. And, on the very last page, one little possibility of such a conclusion does peep through.  What a brilliant and inspiring story!

    I have heard with pleasure that there are fellow Shute fans in South Africa, well down the road from here.  It is a real regret that I travel very little nowadays since to meet them and relax over a few Castles(*) or Klipdrifts(*) at a local watering hole, would be a delight indeed. I suppose that we might discuss regional politics and stuff - but I can think of more agreeable subjects...  
(*) So what do you think they are?  Answers on a postcard, please.  (Or inside a copy of "An Old Captivity" or "Marazan", both yet to be read.)

FROM Arnold Hawk

I know of many people that are searching for a good copy on DVD or Blu-ray of that series.

The Hanover, New Hampshire Nevil Shute group showed the video from the 1999 NS Centennial Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

One of the major speakers was David Stevens, the director of the A TOWN LIKE ALICE TV miniseries from the early 1980’s.

Has anybody in the Foundation had any contact with Mr Stevens?  Or any idea of how to contact him?

His presentation in 1999 was so enthusiastic that he might be willing to undertake this project?

Thanks for your time.


December again. How time flies! I'm wishing you all Happy Holidays, and a very good start in 2018.   From the Netherlands where it is cold, wet and foggy, see you next year.