Pastoral by Nevil Shute

Do you ever just want a good story? I’m not talking about a murder mystery, whodunnit, spy doublecross. I’m talking about a story with good characters with real emotions that you like. A story where it hardly matters where it goes because you’re just happy to go with it. For me, Pastoral was that kind of story.

Pastoral is a simple story of a Royal Air Force pilot that falls in love with a female officer on his base during the height of World War II. The situation of the time is tense (the main character flies many bombing sorties), but the relationship is not. The real battles are of the inner lives of the main characters – how can normal life work while the world is falling apart?

Nevil Shute is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine. Trustee from the Toolroom was one of my top reads last year. I gave it to family members for Christmas. It was a perfectly happy book. This book is not quite up to the same level as that one, but nevertheless, I found it most enjoyable. I wonder if I’m getting a little soft, but I delight in books where there are no bad characters. For lesser writers that would mean no story, but Shute writes great tales where you like everyone.

I will add that while this book is in essence a straight romance, Shute really is a master of action writing. The bombing operations read like you’re in the plane with the crew. The intensity of the physical drama pays off in the intensity of the emotional drama. This book should be a must read for fans of World War II aircraft.

My great uncle died while I was reading this novel. He was my last living blood relative to serve in the war. Losing him relegates that time truly to history for me. I’ll confess it added a poignancy to the story, a bittersweetness that made me wish it wouldn’t end. The title Pastoral is an interesting one for this book. I never see that word when associated with art or music that I don’t think of an idyllic rural scene but one always tinged with a little sadness. Maybe rural life has too much reality to be blindly perceived as fully happy. I don’t know, but just the title made me enjoy the book more.

7.5 stars out of 10

photo: Ryan McGuire

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