Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Book Review

An Old Captivity

By John Darrington

A competent young pilot finds a job opportunity with a expedition of a quite unique and unusual nature. Eager as he is to win this appointment, he is frustrated, even enraged, by the attitude of the daughter of the expedition leader - a slightly absent minded Professor of Archaeology.

Despite the efforts of the girl to sabotage his prospects of appointment, he is employed as the expedition's pilot. However, his elation is somewhat dampened, when he learns that the girl is to be one of the expedition members 'in case Daddy gets ill'. The girl's nursing skills however prove to be needed for quite another patient, and the personality of the protagonists become deeply involved.

Like many of Shute's novels, he starts in the first person, and changes to narrative after the first chapter. A time translation occurs in the middle of the book - another device which fascinated the author so much. The pilot finds himself, weary with the strain and responsibility of the expedition, dreaming of a long journey with a beautiful girl back to the Viking era, their Greenland colony and discovery of the American continent.

Romance and aviation are the tools of Shute's story telling trade, and this novel is no exception. The author's communicative skill enables him to describe the personality of each character in a way which attracts theundivided attention of the reader.

As always, his research into the history and geography of the book's setting is meticulous in its detail, and is fascinating right to the last point.As well as being a marvelous love story, it enlightens one about the life and times of the ancient Vikings, and the story of settlement in the far northern Atlantic lands.

After many readings the only fault I can find is a small matter of inconsistency in the narrative.

In the final chapter, the pilot states, that he last took a bath in Scotland. However the story tells us he had bathed the following day in Iceland.

Notwithstanding, the story is enthralling, the delivery is excellent and excitement is present throughout. I have read this novel many times, and it never fails to capture my attention.

Copyright (C) 1999, John Darrington
Republished by permission