Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Nevil Shute - The Far Country

Publisher: Heinemann
Author: Nevil Shute
Title: The Far Country

Nevil Shute is an author who never disappoints. His books are charming and weighty. He often makes a socially relevant comment through his books. In his book 'On the Beach' he explored the idea of the world coming to an end because of nuclear radiation. In this book we find how war hits everyone's lives.

Post-war England is impoverished. 'Doctors are earning less than dentists.' says Ethel Trehearn. She is the widow of a Civil Servant who served in India. Her husband provided well for her but life had other plans. England left India and the pension funds dried up. The proud old lady is reduced to starvation. Medical aid is in shambles. The hospitals cannot accommodate an old lady who is ill. Her family, a daughter, her husband and a granddaughter are busy trying to eke out a living themselves. Mrs. Trehearn does not let on that things are difficult. She starts selling excess furniture and little bits of jewelry to survive. Until one day she faints from starvation. Her granddaughter Jennifer Morton comes to look after her and discovers how bad things are with Ethel.

Ethel has a niece in Victoria, Australia and has been corresponding regularly with her. The niece, Jane Dorman worries about some things that her aunt wrote and sends her a cheque for 500 pounds. Ethel is too far gone to enjoy the money and hands it over to Jennifer. She urges her to go away to Australia. Jennifer meets a lot of people during this time who seem to advocate emigration and are disillusioned with the way things are in England.

Jennifer finds Australia very beautiful. Her aunt, Jane Dorman is affectionate and accommodating. Jennifer is determined to explore Merrijig, Victoria, to the fullest. She goes everywhere with her uncle, even to far off timber camps. It is here that she meets a Czech Emigre Carl Zlinter. He used to be a doctor in the Czech army. He is a highly qualified surgeon. But according to Australian immigration laws, he has to work for two years as a laborer. After that, he has to appear for an examination to qualify to serve as a Doctor.

This girl from England and this doctor from Czechoslovakia fall in love. There are too many impediments in their way though. Carl cannot work as a doctor for many years yet, he has no money to qualify as a Surgeon again. Things are pretty hopeless for the young couple in love. Yet they decide to make the most of the time they have together. A little mystery pops up when they discover that there was another Carl Zlinter, a buggy driver who lived and died in Merrijig. They do not know but this long dead Carl Zlinter does hold a key to their happiness.

Unlike the ominous 'On the Beach', 'The Far Country' is a sweet little romance. The times are hard and everyone is suffering, yet young people will find their way into love.

I read this book years and years ago when I was a teenager. I read it again to refresh my memory and write about it. It is such a sweet book it deserves to be read by the younger set.  For quite some time it was hard to get any of Nevil Shute's books. Now I am glad Vintage Classics is publishing some of his well known titles. I need to read some more books by him, he is such a marvelous writer, he never disappoints. He has a great imagination and writes in a way that makes us empathise deeply with his characters.

In 'The Far Country' we learn so much about people who have left their homes in search of livelihood. Mario comes from Italy and is desperate to make enough money to bring his sweetheart over. Carl Zlinter cannot think of marrying as he has no money to settle down. Jennifer has also seen many hardships in England, the sight of plentiful tables in Australia amaze her. We feel deeply for them.

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