Read What Happened to the Corbetts by Nevil Shute Online


Originally published in 1939 and unavailable for over 2 years, a novel written just before the war, which prophetically describes how it would affect a town like Southampton....

Title : What Happened to the Corbetts
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781842323021
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 235 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

What Happened to the Corbetts Reviews

  • Algernon
    2019-01-25 20:46

    I don't know if in passing through the world you leave a mark behind. A sort of impression. I'd like to think so, because I think we must have left a good one. We're not famous people and we've not done much. Nobody knows anything about us. But we've been so happy. We've lived quietly and decently and done our job. we've had kids, too - and they're good ones. But I wish we could have had another boy. Peter and Joan Corbett, together with their three young children, are gone from their modest house in a quiet neighborhood of Southampton. They were a decent, shy, modest young couple who didn't ask for much and who found happiness in the little pleasures of family life : going to work every day, keeping the house clean, listening to the radio in the evening, tending the lawn, going out from time to time sailing on an old second hand boat. He was thirty-four years old, a pleasant, ordinary young man of rather a studious turn. Peter Corbett is a typical Nevil Shute protagonist (come to think of it, Dick Francis uses the same type of anti-hero in his thrillers): a middle class professional with moderate ambitions and a pleasant disposition. He is good at his job, respected by his neighbors, loves his wife and children and is passionate about sailing. His life is a tranquil succession of routine days, until one fateful evening when the sky starts raining brimstone over Southampton.>><<>><<>><<There have been numerous novels written about the Blitz, but the present one stands apart from the rest in one important aspect : it was written two yearsBEFORE the first German raid on English soil. It is, in other words, a science-fiction novel, a cautionary tale, something like the later and better known account of the aftermath of nuclear war that Nevil Shute will write a couple of decades later. I sure am glad the apocalyptic future imagined by the author in "On The Beach" didn't come to pass, but "The Ordeal" of the Corbetts (the alternative title of the present novel) is a lucid and often chillingly accurate analysis of the future impact heavy and indisciminate bombing will have on infrastructure, governance, the health and the mental stabilty of the population.Nevil Shute the engineer is looking at technical aspects of type of aircraft, flight paths, navigation instruments, likely damage to buildings and utilities, best actions to take to protect your home and your family. Read like this the novel serves a siilar role as one of the modern Situation Analysis Reports that military Chiefs of Staff commission and use to prepare for emergencies. Indeed, after publication in 1939, a thousand copies of the novel were distributed freely to Air Wardens across the country.Nevil Shute the novelist knows that the most important thing to preserve in a war is our humanity, our integrity, our dignity and our decency. This is why the Corbetts are stand-ins in the eyes of the author for the best the British culture has to offer: that stiff upper lip, that dogged determination to rise up and try again after you've been knocked down, that instinctive impulse to lend a hand and to help a neighbour in need - character traits that have little to do with one political party or another. Peter Corbett, on waking out in the garage after the first night of bombing over Southampton, checks first that his wife and children are OK, then he dresses up and goes back to work, as he did every day of his married life: Twenty minutes later, spruce and neat in his business suit, bowler hat, and dark overcoat, and carrying a neatly furled umbrella on his arm, he came to her again. How does that song goes ? "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun". Peter wants to defy the bombs and get on with his routines, trusting the government and the army to patch things up and to defend the realm. But with subsequent attacks, with water, sewage, electricty, radio and newspapers gone, food staples in short supply and services coming to halt, soon followed by deadly epidemics and civil structure collapse, Peter is forced to admit defeat and to try to get his family out of the danger zone. He is troubled by his conscience which tells him that he is young and fit for enlistment, that he should take up arms and defend his country. A conversation with a neighbour, a veteran from the first world war, will help Corbett set his priorities right: 'I'm not going - not till I can see my way a bit better. It wouldn't be fair on the missus leaving her alone, with raids like that we had likely to happen any night. We've been together all these years, and I'm not going to leave her at a time like this. It wouldn't be right. Of course,' he said, 'if I could get to see her settled and comfy in a little house somewhere where it's safe, then it'ld be another matter'.Corbett laughed shortly. 'Somewhere safe and comfy,' he repeated. 'It seems to me that's going to take a bit of finding.' The first part of the novel describes the effects of the raids, the second part the efforts of the Corbetts to get out of the south of England. Nevil Shute knows how to keep the reader glued to the page. He in top form here as he combines technical details with reportage, human interest stories with adventure at sea, the last part from a dangerous journey in a small boat through the English Channel.Some of the predictions made by the author will blessedly prove inaccurrate. He errs on the side of caution by considering a worse case scenario, and later events will prove that the local and central administration will be able to cope with the damage and that people will come together and help each other survive the worst of the bombing. Some of the exaggerations in the predicted social collapse may be intended as I mentioned earlier, for raising awareness and for preparing the population in case of emergency. In the afterword, the author both dedicates the novel to the people of Southapmton and apologizes in advance for the slur on the city officials: Very likely by the time you read these words I shall be in trouble with your chief officials. [...] But I don't care. If I have held your attention for an evening, if I have given to the least of your officials one new idea to ponder and digest, then I shall feel that this book will have played a part in preparing us for the terrible things that you, and I, and all the cities in this country, may one day have to face together. Part of the bleak overview though may stem from Nevil shute's dissatisfaction with the bureaucracy and the inertia he had had to wade through in his professional career, issues that will eventually drive him into exile a few years later. Despite the evident love he has for his homeland, the author will join the growing ranks of refugees who search for "somewhere safe and comfy" among strangers. The Corbetts of 1938, the Shute's of the 1950's, are sadly still relevant today, since indiscrimate bombs still fall from the sky on civilian targets, and "collateral damage" victims still have to flee from loving homes into the unknown, to promised lands where they are received with suspicion and angry words.So maybe not one of Nevil Shute's best novels, but still one that celebrates the common man and the dreams of family and peace he holds dear. Recommended.

  • Martin Nicholson
    2019-02-03 16:46

    Far too often I finish a novel with a sigh of relief that an overlong plot-line has finally ground to a conclusion. Somewhat rarer is the novel where all the loose ends are tied up and where I can read the final page with a sense of satisfaction but also with a definite sense of closure. “What Happened to the Corbetts” by Neville Shute is one of those very rare novels that left me wanting to read more. There are some marked similarities between this story and “On the Beach” by the same author - most noticeably in that it is a young married couple bearing the heavy responsibility for looking after their young children in the aftermath of a disaster who are the main characters. Written in 1938, Shute accurately predicts the effects of air-raids on the civilian population. The speed with which normal living breaks down when water and electricity supplies are disrupted is frightening. Peter and Joan Corbett have to make the difficult decision to move away from Southampton after a series of air raids and the second half of the book is primarily concerned with how the family end up sailing to the French port of Brest.The book ends with Peter Corbett volunteering for war service and the rest of his family having set sail on a Canada-bound liner. The reader never gets to know if Peter survives the war or what happens to Joan and the children. Lesser authors would probably have written at agonising length about their separate lives but Shute, wisely in my opinion, ends his story with these questions unanswered.

  • MrsCordial
    2019-02-01 18:28

    I'm a big fan of the WWII genre, but until I read this book (not strictly a WWII story as the events are fictional - perhaps apocryphal is a better word) I hadn't realised how cosily plucky little Blighty's fight has been portrayed. I've read books that detail the most appalling and life-shattering events but nothing ever before that has conveyed the sheer terrifying and exhausting grind of trying to survive while not being sure quite which is the right choice at any point.At first I was so irritated by spoilt Joan who couldn't manage without multiple maids and a nanny that I thought I wouldn't enjoy the book, but I soon realised that I couldn't put the book down. I have young children too and found myself wondering how on earth I would hold it together for a single night if bombs were falling around us. I knew water supplies were interrupted and various foods became scarce, but I hadn't brought it down in my mind to the level of how long it would take to run out of water and then how you'd feel if you knew there was a chance that any water you did find could kill you all.As the story wound on I was sobered by the fear and fatigue, the requirement to carry on finding something to feed your children, the squalor of the out-of-town camps that wore on, the mismatch between the official version of events and reality on the ground, the total inability to relax, ever, about anything - this must have been far closer to people's experiences than anything else I have read. It's my first Nevil Shute and has me wanting to read more.

  • Cally73
    2019-01-28 17:27

    I can not believe that no one thought to collect rainwater!

  • Robin Squier
    2019-01-24 15:54

    Nevil Shute is the author to go to when you just need a good story. He is like an old friend.

  • Alice
    2019-01-24 22:41

    I love Shute but I found this one difficult to get on with, largely because I found the Corbetts rather awful people. I know it's 1938, but they're horrible about their several servants when these souls, understandably, decide to put their own families' needs first, and Peter Corbett actively dislikes looking after his own children; it's presented as a noble sacrifice if he spends an hour with them so his wife can pop out. Meanwhile it's just fine for him to put off enlisting because he wants to look after his family. All this aside, it's a fascinating piece of speculation about the effect of air raids on the south of England. Some of it Shute gets wrong, but some of it is horribly right.

  • Suzanne Auckerman
    2019-01-30 23:35

    In the US, this book is titled Ordeal. It is set in Brighton, England and describes what happens to a town once the relentless bombing begins. However, it was written before the war actually started and so fictional. However, by the time the book was published, the bombing had started. The book was held back and he included a disclaimer that it was fictional and not based on what was actually happening in England.

  • Vikas Datta
    2019-01-24 17:27

    The bomber will always get through - unusually prescient while the narrative is most realistic but fast-paced too..

  • Gerald
    2019-01-26 23:32

    Nevil Shute's novel ORDEAL was published in 1939. I don't know exactly when during that year that it came out in comparison to the fact the England declared war against Germany on September 3, 1939, but it seems a safe assumption that he had written most if not all of the book prior to that declaration-of-war date. In light of that, the novel was incredibly prophetic with regard to how what came to be known as World War II affected England.Peter Corbett was a solicitor in southern England near the town of Southampton. He and his wife Jean led a fairly quiet life in their modest home with their three small children. They had a small sailing yacht which they kept at Hamble and which they very much enjoyed periodic day sailing to the Isle of Wight and other ports in the south of England.In the middle of one very cloudy and rainy night they began to hear far off loud noises which steadily grew louder. They soon came to realize that their part of England was being bombed severely. They huddled together, very scared, in what they thought to be the safest part of their house. When bombing had finally ceased and it became light enough to investigate outside, they were shocked beyond belief at the damage which had been inflicted by the bombing. All the windows in almost all the houses in their area were shattered and the rain had poured in, causing a great deal of secondary damage. The power was off in a major part of the whole area, but that soon came to be a comparatively easily resolved problem. The much more critical issue soon came to be to water situation. More specifically, the damage to the sewers caused by the bombing was not easily repairable at all, especially with the continued bombed that took place. Lack of a proper sewage system very quickly led to outbreaks of cholera and typhoid. Peter soon came to learn that the bombers from an unnamed enemy, but obviously Germany, would only come to do their dirty work on cloudy, rainy nights during which they would fly and drop their bombs within the clouds without aiming other than having a general idea of location just before they dropped into the clouds. They were not trying to bomb specific targets, just harass the civilian population.After the first night, Peter with advice from neighbors decided to dig a trench in his backyard and park his car above it. This was better in some respects than staying in the house because it provided more protection. However, it was not very pleasant for the family of five to be in the small trench when it was full of rainwater and very muddy. Peter and Jean decided they would be better off on their small yacht. After some hassle getting through the cholera quarantine restrictions, they made it to their yacht. Again this was better in some respects and a good bit worse in others. At first they seemed to be well away from the continued bombing, but the great difference in tides left them either unable to get to their vessel or get off of it through the tidal mud flats for substantial parts of the day. They decided to sail to the Isle of Wight but were prevented from landing because they could not obtain a clean bill of health, since they would be coming from a cholera area, without going through a several week restriction in a quarantine area. They seemed to be turned aside with every effort they made.Peter was anxious to sign up for the war effort, hopefully getting a commission in either the army or the navy. However, his overriding first concern was to get his wife and three children to a place of safety. They began thinking that Jean and the kids would be safest to go to Toronto, Canada to live with Peter's sister but couldn't come up with a workable plan to get them there until a series of unusual circumstances open the door of possibility for that plan to come about.As I said to begin with, this 1939 novel was amazingly prophetic in painting an author's idea of what might happen and having it mirror so amazing well, at least as far as the bombing of England was concerned, the actual occurrences several years later.Nevil Shute is an excellent author. I add this one as another of his that I highly recommend to readers.

  • Phil
    2019-02-09 23:48

    I wanted to like this more than I did, rereading it after something like 45 years, but I fear that what is normally one of Nevil Shute's strengths - his sharp and detailed observation of the manners, speech, attitudes and environment of unexceptional, unpretentious English people in the period of which he was writing (in this case the 1930s) - veers rather too close to caricature here. His characters, the Corbett family of the title - a comfortable middle class unit living in Southampton on the English south coast - are riven with the kind of snobberies and sense of entitlement that Shute normally mocks gently, such that they are unusually unsympathetic. They also do not appear to have given their nursing baby a name, which strikes me as unusual, to say the least, referring to the (non-gender-specified) infant only as 'Baby'. The setting, an imagining of the outbreak of the Second World War, still some two years distant when the book was being written, is reasonably well done, but suffers from a few gaps in narrative credibility, not least of which is the complete absence of newspapers to transmit information about the military and political situation to a confused and frightened populace - very important even in the pre-1939 period, and contributory, I believe, to the relative *lack* of civil disturbance that occurred even at the height of the Blitz a couple of years later. This kind of omission is perhaps the novel's greatest weakness: there's no reason why Shute's protagonists *should* be likeable (in fact, their unlikeability may be the point - everyone suffers in war), but the absence of material detail lets down both the book itself and Its author's normal fastidious approach to his storytelling.

  • Chichikov
    2019-01-20 22:41

    I've read several Shute novels from his early period -- Ruined City (aka Kindling in the U.S.), Landfall, An Old Captivity -- and I have to say Ordeal (What Happened to the Corbetts in the U.K.) is the worst of the lot.I was ready to give it 4 stars through the first third or so of the book, which was tense and engrossing, with the descriptions of the air raids and bombings (incidentally described in this book before they actually happened in WWII!), but as the book went on, I found myself caring less and less, and I ended up skimming the last 50 pages or so. As reportage, it's well done, but as fiction it's dull: the constant obsession with the struggle to find pints and tins of milk for the baby; the tedious journeys by boat; the weeks stuck in quarantine ...As always, Shute has a knack for storytelling and, one feels, a genuine interest -- in a way that's all too rare -- in humanity and in his characters in particular, even the minor ones. There's just not enough conflict or plot in this one to justify spinning it out to almost 300 pages. I'd recommend it for true Shute devotees only, or for those with a particular interest in the effects of the air raids on Britain in WWII.

  • Gerald
    2019-02-01 17:31

    Nevil Shute is one of my favorite authors. This book was widely distributed during its 1939 publication under the title What Happened to the Corbetts?. About 1,000 copies were sold in the United States under the title Ordeal. I happened to find a copy in my local library under that latter title. Peter Corbett is a solicitor who lives with his wife Joan and their three young children near Southampton, England in the later 1930’s. The story begins just as their country has gone to war against an unnamed enemy. Their world is torn apart by nightly high-level through-the-clouds, indiscriminate bombing of their city. They are forced to cower in a trench Peter dug in their backyard. He parks their car over them for protection. Soon they have to contend with food and water shortages. A further critical shortage is milk for their infant. What little water their can get has to be boiled before using because of a cholera outbreak and later the area is hit with a typhoid epidemic. Just as they decide to move from their home to the small yacht they have some distance away, the diseases result in their area being quarantined. They are finally able to get to the yacht but soon the bombing begins in that area also. Finally, they decide that they must sail off to a safer location. They must overcome severe challenges to accomplishing this. Peter wants to join the military to fight for his country but first of all wants to see that his wife and children are safe by sending them somehow to live with his sister’s family in Canada.This is an exciting story with lots of difficulties which must be overcome. I did enjoy it fairly well, although it is not nearly as good as many of Shute’s other novels. It was good enough to give it a reasonably good recommendation.[Book 60 of revised 2012 target 70 (Jan-10; Feb-11; Mar-9; Apr-8; May-7; Jun-8; Jul-7)]

  • Larry Piper
    2019-02-09 16:43

    Another gem by Nevil Shute. The Corbetts are a normal English family—father, mother, two small children and a baby, living in a small house with a lovely garden—who find themselves scuttling to their garage for safety against a surprise bomb raid on their city. After the bomb raids continue, but only on cloudy nights, they decide to escape for safety to their small yacht, with hopes of eventually making it to safety in Canada. The suddenness of the bomb raids pretty much destroys normal modes of communication—newspapers and radios—so no one much knows what's going on. Essential goods, gasoline, milk, bread, become scarce. Some kind of medical epidemic appears, perhaps; no one knows how virulent or wide spread. Thus everyone is left to speculate as to how best to protect themselves and their loved ones. They don't really know who the "enemy" is (never called out in the book) or why he suddenly began a random bombing campaign. People are pretty much forced to live day by day, making out as best they can. This story tells how the Corbetts themselves did that. Quite a nice story. It was written shortly before World War II broke out, so is a bit prophetic it would seem. Certainly terrorist bombing of civilians became common in WWII, both in the German's regular air raids over London, and in our own flying over Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, .... Now, we're more sophisticated, we have drones do our terrorism for us. No real people involved.

  • Kathryn
    2019-01-30 20:55

    I have read many Nevil Shute books in the past (i.e. MANY years ago) and recognized him then as a talented writer. However, I think I may appreciate his stories a bit more now that I am older. I picked this book up at a recent used book sale in the vintage section for 50 cents and had to read it before passing it along to my aunt. I doubt I have read this before. It is one of his earlier books, written before he moved to Australia from the U.K. It was titled 'Ordeal' in the US, but originally 'What Happened to the Corbetts?'. I think Ordeal really covers the story, which was written pre-World War 2 (1938), but it gives some view of what life could have been like - and it was written as a preview for those who believed war was imminent. I had to look up the locations online after I was done to get a better vision, as my UK geography is not great. Obviously, those who were lucky enough to live in North America - or outside Europe and the UK - were fortunate not to have to go through similar ordeals themselves. I thought it was appropriate that I finished it on Remembrance Day.ML

  • Samantha
    2019-01-26 17:31

    Really interesting in the context - it was written before WW2...

  • Al
    2019-01-29 18:55

    Another fine novel by Mr. Shute. Published in 1939, the story anticipates the bombing of England and imagines that it is devastating to the metropolitan areas of the entire coast. As a consequence, a young husband and wife, and their three small children, are driven from their comfortable home in Southampton into chaotic conditions where they have inadequate food, shelter and health provisions. Fortunately, they own a boat; small, but large enough for them to seek temporary shelter in. Things go from bad to worse, but as in so many of Mr. Shute's books, the plucky family rises to the occasion. The book has a fair amount of sailing narrative, for those who are interested in that. In any case, there are trials aplenty for the young family, and the book ends with the war still ahead.

  • Rob
    2019-02-13 20:41

    This book was written shortly before World War II, and part of Mr Shute's purpose in writing the book was clearly to warn the British of what the war might bring. The beginning of the book is very chilling, about a nation caught completely unprepared by vicious bombing raids that come every cloudy night. The government is useless, unable to stop the bombardment, and of no use to the helpless citizens trying to survive epidemics and drastic food shortages on their own.But the central part of a Nevil Shute book is always a story about one or more ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances in a way that emphasizes their humanity and essential goodness. The reader can rest assured that the horror is merely a backdrop, and that things almost always turn out all right in the end. And so it proved with this book.

  • Ariska
    2019-01-19 18:40

    Despite a very tragic theme the book sounds very optimistical and maybe this is the reason why I couldn't evaluate the book higher than 2 stars. On the other hand I appreciated the author didn't emotionally blackmail readers. It may be, because the book was written by male author, the book is more concetrating on daily and tedious routine - making dinner, putting children to bed, lack of milk and water, and no description of deeper feelings.I liked the part when the Corbetts took the milk by power, what are the decent but desperate people capable of doing.Still, I read the book at once, Shute wrote it well and short. If I hadn't been given the book I would not have bother to look for it.

  • Mike Harper
    2019-02-17 15:43

    This is vintage Shute. Literally, it is! Written in 1939, it's one of his first novels, a precursor of his wonderful later works. It's interesting too in that it anticipates the Blitz, which didn't occur until a year after its publication.Ordeal, like such later novels as Pastoral and Trustee from the Tool Room, makes heroes of humble middle class Brits and makes a great story out of a simple plot. As with the later novels, Ordeal is dated: Shute manages to tell his story in simple, grammatical English. The major characters are all straightforward and honest. There are no histrionics. There isn't any sex or violence (even though it is a war story). Yet the story is gripping. I found myself rooting for a happy ending because I cared about the heroes and their family.

  • Kate
    2019-02-08 18:38

    I am a big Nevil Shute fan. I read this book with the title "Ordeal." Following a natural disaster flood in my own town, this book was extra vivid as a family has to deal with the crisis of bombs dropping randomly and frequently on their city. What would YOU do? How unfortunate that she wasn't breastfeeding her baby and the search for milk was a constant concern. In his other books, the children are better developed characters and women tend to be highly capable, usually brilliant. This wife was quite insipid worrying about her lipstick, etc yet she is fully capable of managing the ship.Despite any flaws, this story was riveting and Nevil Shute again proves his storytelling abilities.

  • Patricia
    2019-02-02 15:34

    This book is a marvelous example of fiction that can influence public policy. It was published in the US as The Ordeal in 1939 and is about the consequences of Germany's bombing of cities in S England. Shute wrote it before the London blitz and, as he says in an author's note at the end, "If this book shows the New World something of our difficulties, and makes the academic problems real to those people in my country who are working for our safety, then I shall feel that I have done a job worth doing." It is also a good story that, I feel, shows the very believable psychological stages that people experiencing sustained trauma must go through. I'd have given it 5 stars except for the fact that its ending is a bit hurried and weak.

  • Scilla
    2019-01-21 15:53

    This is the story of the Corbett family at the beginning of WWII. It begins the first night of bombing in Southampton before war has been declared. Peter, his wife, and children are in their home and finally go out to the garage to sleep as the bombing gets closer. When typhoid and come, they are at first not allowed to leave the town, but finally go to live on their small sailboat on the shore. It is difficult to get milk for the baby, gas, and meat. They finally decide to sail to the Isle of Wight, but are not allowed to land because they came from the area with sickness. Peter would like to get his family to Canada to stay with his sister, but this is not easy to do.

  • Andrew
    2019-02-10 23:56

    This particular book of Shute’s always slightly confuses me – am I supposed to be reading a story about how a bunch of uptight conservatives are forced to truly confront how much they love their family? Or am I supposed to be reading a story about how an already-loving family is torn apart by a war and forced to get really tough and cold? Shute seems to be writing both stories at once, in how Mr and Mrs Corbett give up their nanny and begin to actually look after their children themselves and love them, but then also at the end completely resign themselves to no longer being together as a family.

  • Emma-Louise
    2019-02-04 16:48

    Nevil Shute was an insanely talented writer and one of my favourites. This is an exceptional tale because he wrote it just before the start of the Second World War, and is unlike others I've read due to the detail he goes into about the Corbett family's struggle to go about their daily lives at the beginning of the war. Shute's other books (the ones I've read) focus on usually one individual during the war. The expertise and knowledge he writes with is invaluable in giving the story real life detail - even though it is a work of fiction. Some think his style has dated; I find it charming... 4 stars because although I enjoyed it, I probably won't read it again (which is my 5 star rule!)

  • Stevie Carroll
    2019-02-12 15:37

    A compelling, if at times stylistically dated, piece of what was then near-future speculative fiction. The characters have a habit of being obligingly middle class (even those who have got there by aspiration), especially as the daily staff flee to their families early in the story leaving our protagonists to cope by themselves. It was interesting spotting what Shute got right, and where he was some way off the mark, but overall he did an excellent work of prediction barring the one error he acknowledged having made in the introduction to the library's edition. Well worth a read.

  • Foxfire
    2019-02-10 18:34

    I can't believe I came across a Nevil Shute book I hadn't read. Perhaps not one of his best, but still worth five stars.Why do I love these old stories so much? The writing is plain, the action the opposite of dramatic, the characters ordinary.That's just it.Nevil Shute's novels are stories about ordinary people living in extraordinary times. The characters and the situations seem so real, I sometimes feel disoriented when I have to put the book aside for a moment. Suspension of disbelief. I can't think of any other author who does it better.

  • Linda
    2019-02-05 18:50

    As “On the Beach” is a prophetic novel about life at the end of World War III, “Ordeal” is prophetic of the bombing of England by Germany during World War II. It was written in 1939, and originally titled, “What Happened to the Corbetts.” Peter Corbett, a lawyer, lived a middle-class life in Southampton, England with his wife Joan, and children Phyllis, John, and a baby sister. They awoke one night when their house was bombed, and this is the story of the chaos of their lives and of the bombed city, as they tried to escape to a safer place.

  • Penny
    2019-01-24 16:27

    aka "What Happened to the Corbetts". This synopsis directly from goodreads:[close:] Published two months before World War II began for England but with much foresight about what was to come, Shute imagines the effect of the sudden start of bombing on Southampton and the disruptions in a family's normal life and then the local infrastructure. Eerily foreshadowing his later book "On the Beach," which went farther and imagined the slow disintegration and death following a nuclear war as the effects of global nuclear fallout are gradually felt in Australia. [close:]

  • Claire Haeg
    2019-01-23 23:35

    I have the US edition of this book, where it was published as "The Ordeal." An interesting and prescient consideration of the possible consequences of bombing on civilian populations. It was published two months before WWII, and serves as a fascinating timepiece - obviously written quickly but well, and serving to some extent as propaganda in the hope that US readers would have sympathy for the Brits and support the US government's attmpts to help.

  • Michael
    2019-02-07 17:42

    Great for its austere portrayal of the austere pre-WWII British emotional landscape. Does a hell of a job setting up a steady crescendo of the horrors of total war. But then our heroes are suddenly and really rather ludicrously plucked out of danger and the book slams abruptly to an unconvincing end. One suspects that Shute felt the need to get his half-finished manuscript out the door while it was still a work of fiction.