Ian has an uncanny knack for locating copies of now obscure books by Nevil Shute in used bookstores which would seem, to the average customer, to contain only multiple copies of A Town Like Alice and On The Beach. I don’t know how he does it; I certainly never find them.
Anyway, this is the latest Shute he’s sent my wayâ€”if you can use the word “latest” with respect to a book published in 1947â€”and as usual I enjoyed it thoroughly. It takes place two or three years after World War II, and mostly in England.
At some point during the war, four men end up in the same ward in a small hospital in Cornwall. One is a pilot named Morgan, injured in a plane crash; the other three are up on charges, their days in court waiting on their recovery. Captain Turner, the nominal viewpoint character and the most seriously injured, was arrested for selling three truckloads of His Majesty’s sugar on the black market. Duggie Brent, a paratrooper, will be standing trial for killing a man during a stupid brawl. And Dave Lesurier, an American soldier, a negro, is accused of attempted rape of an English girl.
The book begins several years later, when Turner, now simply Mr. Turner, has come to see a doctor. He was convicted, and has served his time, and has several years has been working in the sales department of a flour manufacturer. He’s been having fainting spells, apparently due to the wound that put him into the hospital originally. He finds he has at most a year to live. What will he do with the time he has left?
He’ll look up the other three, of course (with this set up, how could he not?). But therein hangs the tale, and I’ll not spoil it.
Find a copy, if you can, and enjoy. As for me, I have to give this copy back. Hmph.