Read In the Wet by Nevil Shute Online


Originally published in 1953, IN THE WET is Nevil Shute's speculative glance into the future of the British Empire. An elderly clergyman stationed in the Australian bush is called to the bedside of a dying derelict. In his delirium Stevie tells a story of England in 1983 through the medium of a squadron air pilot in the service of Queen Elizabeth II....

Title : In the Wet
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781842322543
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 344 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

In the Wet Reviews

  • Jane Jago
    2019-01-31 15:55

    OK let's do the politics first. I have read reviews from people who can't get past Nevil Shute's politics, and if you are a reader who wants to apply a twenty-first century political sensibility to a novel written more than sixty years ago there's plenty to get hot under the collar about. And if it's going to upset you you are probably best off avoiding this author altogether. All his novels are informed by the same political stance, and although it may be a bit more blatant in this book it's there in them all.However. I'm not too bothered by the man's politics. I see this novel as being very much of its time, but also as exhibiting an eye and a hand for storytelling that I find intensely readable.The story takes us from Australia in the 1950s to Shute's imagination of what England may be like in the 1980s. The narrative carries well, and Shute's vision of what was for him the future is believable.I enjoyed it.So. If you like a rattling good tale, give this a go. But don't blame me if the politics pees you off.

  • Stephen
    2019-02-08 00:09

    this book in some part is slightly dated with some of the language but however in some parts its quite forward thinking as its a mixture of the present 1953 and a story of a man's future story with the political change/system and fast aircraft.

  • Jenne
    2019-01-24 19:05

    This was a weird one. Most of the book takes place in 1983 (it was written in '53) but it took me little while to figure that out, since apparently nothing had really changed in 30 years except that airplanes go faster, and England is still under rationing, and Australia has a new political system. (Multiple voting, where you can earn extra votes for various things like education or experience overseas or raising a family)This is basically what I call a hobbyhorse novel (like the Da Vinci Code or the Celestine Prophecy) where the author has some cool idea they want you to know about so they think up some story to illustrate the idea. (Which in this case is The Evils of Socialism, or, How Australia Is Awesome and The English Are Losers.)Still, it's by Nevil Shute, so it's crazy readable and there's lots of stuff about airplanes. Also, it was timely with all the Queensland flooding lately, because that's what the title refers to. And finally, just to warn you, the main character's nickname is the n-word, and they use it all. the. time.

  • David Kenrick
    2019-01-29 17:01

    *spoilers follow*In the decades after the Second World War, thousands of British men and women emigrated to 'the colonies' - usually Australia, South Africa, and Canada - as a way to escape the dreariness of post-war austerity for a whole gamut of reasons. Nevil Shute was one such person. Like some others, he was fleeing his homeland because of concern about the direction the country was going in under the post-war Labour government. What this government did was undoubtedly radical and the rights and wrongs of that administration continue to be debated today. In the interests of full disclosure I am English and I am left wing, and that has definitely affected how I read and enjoyed this book. I make such a disclosure because, for me, this was less a novel than Nevil Shute's own thinly-veiled diatribe about the state of post-war Britain sandwiched in between a much more interesting and better-written tale. The one redeeming feature about the book (for me) was the other tale and also the fact that - in typical Shute fashion - the prose was clear, and very readable.In the Wet is, largely, a story-within-a-story. It begins with a tale written by a malarial parson in a remote Australian parish. This takes up something like the first 60 or 70 pages of the book and I enjoyed it very much. It reminded me a lot of Beyond the Black Stump (the only other book I have read by Shute), and vividly brought the Australian outback to life for me.The parson visits a dying alcoholic and, in his final hours, hears the opium-addled man tell him a fantastical story about the future. In this story (which takes up most of the book) the alcoholic is reborn as a different man decades in the future when a constitutional crisis envelops England. The man, a Australian Air Force pilot, becomes part of the Queen's Flight and participates in her saving the Commonwealth by fleeing an evil socialist government in Britain and relocating the centre of the Commonwealth of Nations to Australia, no seriously.Reading it in 2016, it is clear that In the Wet is a profoundly dated book - giving a book a bad review for that reason, however, is simply lazy - but if you are sensitive to these things prepare for retrogressive gender politics, a saturation N-bombing (the alternate future antagonist adopts the nickname 'Nigger' because of his mixed-race heritage), an obsessive fanatical monarchism and some questionable views on the value of modern democracy. Some of this will be dealt with below, because frankly it has to be if I am going to review this book properly.At times, the book reads like an immigration pamphlet for Australia, or the smug ramblings of an emigre writing from his sunnier, spacious, new home. In Australia of Shute's alternate future, a place where immigrants are flocking almost faster than new houses can be built, there is opportunity, plenty, good weather, beautiful landscapes and a bizarre system of 'multiple voting' which has led to the election of a 'different type of politician'. By contrast Britain is full of sullen, sallow people suffering immensely under a comically incompetent socialist government led by ex-trade unionists who seem to be totally incapable of any kind of reasonable action or thought process.Let's leave aside that Shute's Australia was actually founded on disposession and genocide of indigenous peoples. It was a common trope among settlers in the 'white' Commonwealth to portray their countries as 'better Britains' after the Second World War. In this sense Shute's writing is an excellent example of these discourses of settler superiority. If I was being a particularly accommodating reader, that would be fine - because I understand where it is coming from - but at the same time the constant political exposition is heavy-handed, repetitive, and distracts from what otherwise could be a quite exciting (if totally bonkers) adventure story. In the Wet is a book that would be great to write an essay about, less so to read for pleasure (unless you are a right-wing Australian in which case it is essentially your bible).One of the central themes to which people are constantly coming back is the failure of one-man, one-vote democracy. I study white settlers in central Africa for my PhD, and so am well-versed in arguments deployed against one-man, one-vote, but was quite stunned (and, frankly, appalled) to hear what Shute had to say about it in this book. Indeed, the entire meta-narrative is predicated on the idea that certain people 'deserve' privileges over others. In the first instance, the Royal Family of this book is unimpeachable. I am no royalist, but I quite like the Queen. At the same time, I have never heard a convincing argument, nor has a lifetime studying history, proved to me that monarchs (anywhere) innately deserve to rule anyone. Shute seems to either not understand or refuse to accept the concept of a 'constitutional monarchy', something which long pre-dated Britain's post-WW2 woes. He seems to want the Queen to be able to rule with absolute power.Further to this, at several points clumsy arguments for 'multiple voting' are advanced. In Shute's alternate world, the Commonwealth (i.e. the white bits of it - Canada, Australia, New Zealand) has a system of votes designed to stop the tyranny of the common man being allowed to have a voice. The qualifications speak for themselves:1. Everyone gets a basic vote2. People who have been to University get an extra vote3. Ditto those who have raised two children without getting divorced(!)4. Ditto those who have spent time outside the country (though the protagonist says this was cheapened as it applied to soldiers who served abroad in world wars)5. Ditto those who own businesses6. Ditto those who are clergymen(!)7. A special seventh vote can be granted as a privilege from the Queen herselfHere is the second bizarre argument for extended privilege. It sure was good of Nevil to ensure everyone got to keep one vote, and while to some the extra qualifications seem reasonable they are based on common assumptions about people's influence and intelligence for which there is no evidence. People who own businesses already get more of a say in government policy because their position as employers and economic movers and shakers gives them alternative routes to government beyond voting - why do they also then deserve another vote? I think in the modern day most people would dismiss giving clergymen extra say because of our secularising society (which is why people want the bishops out of the House of Lords). Raising two children and not getting divorced is not necessarily a sign of stability and responsibility, it could be the product of a loveless inertia or (in Shute's world) two people staying together to get another vote just as some people today marry for a tax break. Certainly more people could do with going abroad and seeing (and understanding) more of the outside world, but even Shute's protagonist claims that his time abroad didn't really grant him any better understanding in this regard so his 'being abroad' vote is purely a result of bureaucratic function (something Shute claims to despise). If the increasingly partisan farce of the honours lists has taught us anything, the 'Seventh vote' certainly wouldn't be awarded to anyone based on a considered examination of their intelligence and responsibility. University is by no means a guarantee of superior political reasoning, and I can tell you that from experience as a student of Oxford University, where among some of the most intelligent people in the world there are a raft of utter idiots. This entire bizarre system is based upon the idea that ordinary people don't know what is good for them and only vote selfishly. No evidence beyond a kind of smug assumption that some people 'know better' is offered to counter this incredibly demeaning picture. The truth is, everyone who exercises the right to vote votes in their own interests. The challenge, and fairness, of democracy comes from trying to balance those interests. Instead of this, Shute's multiple voting encourages a hierarchical system in which some people know best and the rest do what they're told because it is good for them. Shute talks about British democracy as if it is a unique experiment. In reality most of the western world had adopted this system by 1952. If he attributes Britain's post-WW2 decline purely to representative one-man, one-vote democracy, how does he account for the concomitant success of America (using the same system) at the same time? What was the key difference? You don't know, because rather than a cogent argument for electoral reform this is just a novel-length whinge about Labour governments. Shute does point out several times that the 'colonies' pioneered better voting systems in the past - the secret ballot in Australia and women's votes in New Zealand of which the 'colonials' in the novel are justifiably proud. This is an important point and Shute is certainly right about the British peoples' reluctance to undertake electoral reform (see the recent referendum on proportional voting), but what he is suggesting is less 'reform' and more a retrenchment of certain types of institutionalised privilege (rather than, say, proportional voting, which is eminently fairer). In Shute's system I would be allowed three votes, for the same reason as the main character (travel abroad, university education, and basic) and it would not change the way I currently vote at all. It would simply make me more powerful at the expense of the majority of the population - what is fair, just, honest, or decent about that?At the end of the book the new Governor-General of England forces Parliament to accept this new system and Parliament has to accede because the people of Britain are so upset that the Monarchy ran away to Australia. This is an alternate future of not quite the same calibre, consistency, or believability envisioned by Orwell. The patently ridiculous nature of what people keep suggesting was another thing that kept pulling me out of the narrative. Just as I thought the point had been sledgehammered home, someone mentioned how the 1867 Reform Act was a terrible mistake, or how a company boss deserved more say in a democracy than his employees.I might sound to some like a petulant leftie throwing my toys out of the pram, but when Shute has so clearly set out his stall like this I have to deal with the politics of it. This is a profoundly reactionary and conservative work which made for unpleasant reading. I could have set this aside if it was well-written or the argument was cogently presented, but the argument was: "I love the Queen and I think the opinions of people like me are more important than the opinions of the 'common man'". Sorry, I'm not persuaded by that. It would have helped if Shute hadn't been so repetitive and direct about it. The main character is constantly talking in almost eugenic terms about Australians as a people are healthier and superior to British people. An Oxford Don chortles about what a terrible time England has had with a common franchise. A socialist Prime Minister of England (always England, never Britain, despite the fact that the entire government seems to be Welsh) doesn't know the geographical extent of his own empire or the name of the Australian Prime Minister. Come off it Nevil. If you want to convince me to further disenfranchise ordinary people you're going to have to do better than that. The socialist government after WW2 was actually broadly supportive of Britain's imperial mission, and spent huge amounts of money in what scholars call a third wave of imperial expansion in Britain's tropical colonies. Your protests against one-man, one-vote sound like the desperate bawlings of a bitter reactionary who fled the country rather than stay to try and argue a cogent, alternative case, as others did - that postwar Labour government from which Shute scarpered was gone after a single term, then the Conservative party returned to power for another decade in one-man, one-vote elections (see, they work both ways).As you can probably tell from my review. In the Wet was certainly an interesting book - thanks to my research interests - and an infuriating one - thanks to my political persuasions. It is useful as an object of study for students of settler attitudes to the weakening of the British Empire and responses to post-war austerity. A small part of it is an enjoyable if relatively uneventful novel about life in the Australian outback. Most of it is a thinly-veiled political rant about post-war Britain interweaved with a readable story about aeroplanes - a story that I would have given a higher rating were it not for the repetitive political exposition that all the characters seemed so fond of. When I sat down to write this review I was prepared to give the book two stars, but hovering over that rating I noticed that it stood for 'it was ok', In the Wet was not 'ok', it was highly problematic and I 'did not like it', hence one star. Don't bother with it unless you want to do some literary criticism on settler writing about the end of empire, Shute's other novels are much better.

  • M.A. McRae
    2019-02-04 18:01

    'In the Wet' has an unusual plot. It is part set in the Australian Outback, 1950s, and written from the point of view of a Church of England priest. A dying alcoholic tells him a story of his life - except that his life is in the future, maybe a future life. It is a story of involvement in high affairs, when England has become a socialist state, grey and dreary, and her queen finds her life plagued by hostile politicians. She decides that the thriving former colonies might be a better place to live. She is Queen of Canada and Queen of Australia as well as Queen of England, something that is often forgotten.One thing that Shute talks of that is worthy of some real thought - that the system of one man/one vote will not elect the best politicians, rather it is apt to elect the one who makes the most generous promises. He suggests a multiple vote system - that everyone has the one basic vote, but can earn an extra vote for higher education, another vote for living and earning money overseas for a certain period of time, another for a stable marriage and family, etc. Being a serving officer of the church also earned an extra vote. (this book was written before the scandals of the church and its coverups of child sexual abuse by its priests.) The queen could also award a vote - 'the seventh vote.'He has a point about his 'multiple-vote' system - surely a person with some education and intelligence should be able to choose more wisely than a no-hoper who never did anything in his life but get drunk, sire illegitimate children and collect the dole.There is an author's note at the end. I was impressed by it. 'No man can see into the future, but unless somebody makes a guess from time to time and publishes it to stimulate discussion, it seems to me that we are drifting in the dark, not knowing where we want to go or how to get there.'So Nevil Shute made a few guesses, and even though little of the world as he imagined it, actually happened, it made for a very good yarn.

  • Vikas Datta
    2019-02-12 16:15

    A magnificent display of imagination and style in the way the narrative switches from the present to the future and returns seamlessly... makes a few key points about British politics and commonwealth relations that seems uncannily prescient but then Mr Shute's storytelling capabilities were never in doubt...

  • Nancy Oakes
    2019-01-24 22:16

    Very strange book. I would recommend it to people who are interested in reincarnation or who are into looking at books that in the story expressed prophetic (and some not so prophetic) visions of the future.brief synopsis:Written in 1952, In the Wet is situated mainly in England but starts out in Australia. The local parish priest goes out to an isolated house to attend to the dying of the local town drunk and ne'er do well named Stevie. (For some reason, the blurb on the bookcover gives his name as Georgie, and I was so dumb I kept waiting for Georgie to appear in the story!). Stevie is being tended by a Chinese man who raises & sells fresh veggies to the locals, and stereotypically he is an opium smoker. The priest & the sister who came with him decide that if Stevie needs the opium to help him with his pain, so be it, so he smokes a few pipefuls while he's dying. The priest himself isn't in such great shape; he gets hit with another round of recurring malaria and is suffering from fever while he sits holding Stevie's hand. So the priest asks Stevie if he has a wife or anyone they can contact & Stevie throws out the name "Rosemary." He begins to tell the priest about Rosemary, and from there comes out the story that is the major thrust of this book -- it is the story of David Anderson who serves in the Royal Australian Air Force as the pilot to the Royal Family. Now you could chalk this up to the fact that Stevie's totally stoned, but the strange part is that Anderson's story takes place in the future, and that a lot of things that Stevie tells just frankly haven't happened at the time in which the novel is set.So, you could argue that In the Wet is Shute's "prophecies" about England & the entire British Commonwealth. It is also a look at the fate of the Queen and the royal family, almost in an alternate setting -- there have been three wars; England has suffered under thirty years of socialist misrule; mass out-migration by British people to other countries of the Commonwealth, which stand in contrast to the vision of England as flourishing & a prosperous place to be. I liked this book. I was admittedly a little taken aback and to be honest, a little put off by the use of Anderson's nickname and I think that this factor got in the way of my reading, but then again, the book was written originally in 1952 so I guess I can overlook that. I thought the characterizations were good -- a little stereotypical, but again, probably a product of the times. The story was intriguing & kept me reading.

  • Owen
    2019-02-03 16:20

    Although some of Nevil Shute's work is created using a fairly large canvas (one thinks of "A Town Like Alice," more than any other), most of his novels are simple tales about everyday life. The trick, or real art, which they demonstrate, is in showing us a slice of that ordinary world we think we all know, as though it were the most normal thing in the world, and then bringing out the oddity that is never far below the surface. So "In the Wet," one of his more imaginative novels, takes us bit by bit into the remote parts of tropical northern Australia, building up tiny details from characters and race days and scraps of conversation, until the real story, hidden just below the surface, begins to emerge. Shute, whose background is very much that of an experimental scientist with oil on his hands, is never more impressive than when he leads the unsuspecting reader through the mundane material world that we think we see, onto another plane altogether. Not afraid in the least of exploring spirituality, Shute acts as an intelligent, well-informed guide for the reader on a voyage of discovery. Never intruding on the narrative, yet masterfully keeping it in rein, he is an author whose novels have long been considered merely "popular," when in fact they are often penetrating inquiries into the meaning of life.One other characteristic of Shute's writing that is perhaps more apparent today than it was in the fifties and sixties is that his work is always set in the contemporary period of a world undergoing vast change. He lived and served and worked through two world wars and the effects of these cataclysmic events were such as to shake up the foundations of the very science which had made so many people feel so secure for a time. Therefore, his texts today also provide interesting excursions into that world, from 1920 to 1960, which was not only metamorphosing into the more colourful world of the Beatles, Vietnam and Tricky Dicky Nixon, but which has since very completely disappeared from the ken of anyone much under fifty. Of course, if all you are after is a good story told by a competent storyteller, you won't be disappointed either.

  • John Defrog
    2019-02-10 19:13

    My experience with Nevil Shute is limited to his post-apocalytic On the Beach, which I read ages ago and remember liking. So when I found this second-hand, I thought I’d try it. The jacket synopsis sounded promising: mysterious old man on his deathbed tells another man his life story which impossibly takes place 30 years in the future (circa 1983). But after about 100 pages I’d had enough. The “future” turns out to be concerned mainly with the political development of England and Australia and their subsequent relationship – and that’s it. It’s so mundane that if not for the jacket synopsis, at first you’d never know he was talking about future events unless you’re fairly well versed in Commonwealth political relations and democratic structures. And even then, you might think he was merely making things up, not talking about the future – it’s not until he mentions specific years that you realize something is up. And Shute’s fascination with political evolution comes at the expense of everything else – apart from democratic processes, societal norms and technologies seem to be the same in 1983 as they were in 1953. It doesn’t help that the old man – who is of mixed-race heritage – deliberately goes by a nickname that’s also a racial epithet (ostensibly to throw it in the face of anyone who might have a problem with his racial background, which is interesting, but still, it doesn’t translate well in 2017). Other people might get something out of this, but as speculative fiction goes, I found it both tedious and unconvincing.

  • Graceann
    2019-02-17 18:09

    I did something with this novel that I haven't done since I was in high school - I went to alternate sources for explanation of what I was reading because I got lost. I was reading one story, then suddenly I was reading another, and it took me quite a while to figure out how I'd been transitioned. This is one of many things that Nevil Shute does for me; he keeps me on my toes and pushes me out of my comfort zone. The novel starts with the rather simple (and, at the outset, rather dull) story of a priest working in Australia, and trying to get to people who need him during the wet season. During the long night of someone's dying, something else begins. He isn't prepared for this, and neither was I. I almost gave up on the story when it was just about the priest and his lonely little experiences, and I'm so glad that I didn't give in to the temptation. I kept saying to myself "this is Shute; there's got to be more to the story." I was right to stick with it. There's a great deal of Shute's own political outlook here, and one of the characters nicknames himself with the N-word in order to beat the racists to it. The novel as a whole makes for interesting, thought-provoking reading.

  • Jim Puskas
    2019-01-24 20:00

    Every so often, Shute liked to spin one of his favorite "tricks", suddenly shifting from one situation into an entirely different time and place, with his main characters transported in some supernatural or strangely spiritual manner. He did that very skillfully in "An Old Captivity" and "Lonely Road" and again here. As long as the reader is willing to suspend disbelief and just go along for the ride, it can be very effective. In this case, he over-reaches by speculating on a future of his own imagining and the tale is made less appealing because of Shute's decision to color it with his own off-beat political views; the fact that the future evolved in a vastly different manner than he envisioned renders it even less credible when read today. So, this is a book for those who, like myself have a great liking for Shute and his old-fashioned style. Despite those flaws, it's still a compelling story, largely because his main character David is such a likeable fellow. Rock-ribbed socialists and anti-royalists will detest this book. Devotees of Ayn Rand would probably love it regardless of its weaknesses.

  • Maria
    2019-01-19 23:21

    I really liked some parts of this book. It was a fairly good story, some adventure, politics, romance, and humor. Really the only thing I didn't like about the book was that it felt like the author basically made up the romance (which is probably the main thread throughout the story) in order to foist his political opinions on the reader. I am fine with authors having political views and changing the politics in their stories to reflect that, it just felt a little clunky here. Overall a good story though. I also found many of the characters very likable and I thought in particular the main character (David 'N*****' Anderson, yes that N word is the characters nickname and he is referred to as such throughout the book. By the end I started to think of that word as just his name and am now a bit worried I might say it in reference to the book and get frowned upon. Perhaps that is another thing the author is trying to point out. That word only has power because of how we perceive it.) and the priest who is used to intro the book were well written.

  • Vivian
    2019-01-29 00:12

    Wow! This book is just incredible. As I was reading the first half of the book, I was mystified by the timing/dating. I mentioned it to my sister who had recommended the book to me and her response was "just keep reading". So I did...until 1:00 in the morning (yeah, I could not put it down). (view spoiler)[ It is hard to write an adequate review without a it finally dawned on me that the author wrote this book in 1951 about events that would not occur until the 1980-1990's??, he did an amazing job. He almost had me believing that it was factual (except that he didn't mention Andrew or Edward and that Charles' and Anne's children were not correct, he didn't foresee the divorces, etc.)but that being said, what an incredible job writing about future events in such a believable way.(hide spoiler)] This has to be up there with one of the most amazingly written books I've ever read!

  • JayeL
    2019-02-01 00:16

    2016: I have previously read the print. I bought the audio and this is the first time I am listening to the audio. This story is one of his more confusing, because the transitions are a little bit abrupt and the flashbacks are longer so there were a few moments where I lost where I was because of the abrupt transition. The audio is easier to follow. The most interesting part of this book are the political aspects. This is a book written in the 1950s, taking place in the 1980s. It is very interesting to see the characters navigate the political and cultural aspects of the situations.

  • Stuart Mcgrigor
    2019-02-18 19:54

    I read this one ages ago in my mid-teens. It was the first time I read a book where the author had an overt political agenda, and a wheel barrow to push.Wrapping that all up as a piece of speculative fiction, and the creepy supernatural tie in between the events in the future and the here now, really rang a bell in an impressionable 17yo.I've always thought this was the best of the 20 odd Shutes, although _On the Beach_, _A Town Like Alice_, and _Requiem for a Wren_ are other favourites.

  • Eve
    2019-02-06 23:52

    I love, love, love this book. I’ve always been a fan of a town like Alice which I read in my early teens but only found out about this book in my late 20’s/ early 30’s from my beloved aunt. In my mind it is more than a match for it’s authors more well known titles. Check it out. It vividly took me back to I time I haven’t lived yet so closely identified with. I won’t say more... check it out

  • Larry Piper
    2019-02-05 21:20

    I have always rather liked Nevil Shute. This is my least favorite of the dozen or so books of his that I've read. Part of it is the weird polemics. Part of it is the clumsy way Shute went back and forth between the two, intertwined story lines. So, we begin with a 60-something Church of England clergyman, Roger Hargreaves, in Northeastern Australia, Queensland. Hargreaves served a large parish, in terms of area, many square miles. They have two seasons there, wet and dry. "In the wet", travel is very difficult. Well, Hargreaves meets up with an old drunk, Stevie. Stevie varies his time living with a Chinese guy (Liang Shih) who grows vegetables and opium, or living in town, cadging free drinks. Stevie had once been a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps, and had later managed a "station" (Australian ranch). Time goes on. One day, Liang Shih comes into town to tell the local medical person, Sister Finlay, that Stevie is very sick. Hargreaves and the Sister head out to check up on Stevie. It's just become rainy season, and the travel is difficult. Eventually they make it. To ease Stevie's pain, Liang Shih gives him some opium. Hargreaves sits by the bedside, hoping to comfort the sick, probably dying, man. He is hoping to help him ease his way into the "next world". Eventually, Hargreaves gets Stevie talking about his past and any possible relatives he might have. Stevie says his actual name is David Anderson, but his mates all call him Nigger. Stevie says he's married to a woman named Rosemary and has two children. He claims to have flown the queen around here and there. Next thing one knows, the focus of the story has changed. Rather abruptly. No warning. No transition. Not even a gap in the printing or a new chapter. We've leapt from Australia in 1953 to England in 1983. Eventually, toward the end of the book, we leap back, and it all makes some kind of sense. In the meantime, we're invited to Shute's diatribes against socialism, the national health service, the one-man-one-vote model for democracy, and so forth. Much of the book does read like classic Shute with airplanes and boats woven in, a shy friendship between an man and a woman that leads to romance, and so forth. Overall, it's a decent enough book, but the polemic nature of Shute's stunted politics gets wearying, and as I said, the clumsy transition between 1953 and 1983 and back is very disorienting.

  • Skjam!
    2019-01-23 18:22

    This is rather an odd book by the author of On the Beach and A Town Like Alice. It starts as the story of Roger Hargreaves, an aging Anglican priest in Northern Australia in the 1950s. In the course of his parish duties, Father Hargreaves meets a colorful local character, an old drunk named Frankie. Frankie may have some sort of precognitive abilities, or maybe he just got a lucky guess. Still, there’s more to Frankie than meets the eye.During the rainy season, (as the locals call it, “in the wet”,) Hargreaves receives word that Frankie is dying. Along with a local medical woman, he hurries to the remote cabin Frankie is staying in. They lose their medical supplies in the floods, and the lamp fuel is almost gone. There’s not much to be done for Frankie but allow him to smoke opium to dull the pain. To distract Frankie, Hargreaves asks the dying man to tell the priest about himself.But the story Frankie tells is of Wing Commander David Anderson, an Australian test pilot who is asked to become a member of the Queen’s Flight (kind of like Air Force One for us Yanks.) As the story continues, it becomes clear that Anderson lives in the 1980s, a time of crisis for the Commonwealth.After this paragraph, I’ll be going into SPOILER territory, and also some racially charged language. For those who don’t want to see that, I’ll say that this is an interesting book, but On the Beach was better. Some very nice sketches of North Australian life in the 1950s at the beginning and end, though, and the aviation scenes are excellent.SPOILER WARNING1980s Britain is not, in many ways, like the one in our timeline. For starters, there’s still food rationing. Rosemary Long, our hero’s love interest, has a good job at Buckingham Palace and can afford her own good sized sailboat, but has never seen an intact pineapple before, let alone had enough meat to worry that it might spoil. (In real life, rationing officially ended in 1954, with many items being derationed well before that.Also, Britain is largely Socialist, with Labour having been in power almost uninterrupted for the last thirty years. (Evidently, Mr. Shute did not have confidence in Winston Churchill’s ability to hold onto the Prime Minister job. In real life, he was able to swing the voting to the Conservative party for quite some time.) This has resulted in the Prime Minister, Iorweth Jones being a barely disguised Communist, (Communism having gone out of favor after “the Russian war”) with a class warfare mentality. Also, the Secretary of State for Air is so out of touch with the state of aeroplane technology that he is unaware planes have things called “radios” now.One thing Mr. Shute did get right was that Queen Elizabeth II is still on the throne, with Charles as the Prince of Wales. Charles is married and has two sons. Well, he does on page 111. A daughter pops up as well on page 181.We don’t get much information about the Russian war; it was a few years ago, Commander Anderson spent most of it in the Philippines, it evidently did not go nuclear, and there’s no mention whatsoever of the Soviet Union. As mentioned above, the end of the war discredited Communism as a viable government style.Britain is also undergoing a population crash, due to heavy emigration (in our timeline they mostly had immigration from the former colonies and Commonwealth.) Things have gotten bad enough that the government nationalized housing after the 1970 crash and hasn’t given it back since. Rosemary has never seen a new house being built, to her memory.Meanwhile, Australia’s been doing great, thanks to the new multiple vote system. Every adult gets one basic vote. if you get higher education, you get a second vote (Anderson got his for officer school.) Working outside the country for two years gets you the foreign travel vote (Anderson admits this is pretty much a racket so military veterans get an extra say.) Getting married, staying married and spawning two children who you raise to at least fourteen gets you a family vote. (Divorce, widowry or your kids dying or disappearing means starting all over.)There’s also a business vote for anyone with an earned income over a certain amount (and it’s substantially high) and a religious vote for anyone holding an office in an approved Christian church. That last one would never fly in America! Finally, there’s the Queen’s Favour vote which you get in much the same way you would a knighthood. Thus a truly dedicated person can have up to seven votes; somehow this has led to Australia getting a better class of politicians.By the end of the book, England is looking to install the same voting system. Notably, England had had a similar thing called plural voting up until 1948 in real life, when it was reformed for a one person one vote system. Instead of multiple voting, real life Australia went with “preference voting” instead, where you rank candidates in order of how much you like them.In other political oddness, the Queen seems much more involved with ruling the Commonwealth than the largely figurehead role she had in the real 1980s. She even moves the Royals to Australia, and appoints a Governor General for England as it’s clear Parliament can’t handle the job.Oh, and what will be truly horrific to some of you, rock and roll never caught on, and ballroom dancing with live orchestras is still the thing.And then there’s the racism weirdness. Mr. Shute was against racism, especially Southern United States style racism, but it’s expressed oddly here. Commander Anderson is mixed race, being one-quarter Aborigine, and apparently is light-skinned and fine-featured enough that most people assume he just has a tan. He goes by the nickname “Nigger,” and insists all his friends call him that.You can sort of see that, as a way of “reclaiming the word” and apparently Commander Anderson’s worried that people will think he’s trying to “pass” if he doesn’t bring up his ancestry directly. But it’s still very jarring. Especially when he uses the phrase “nigger in the woodpile” unironically. It’s clear that most of the characters consider his deeds more important than his ethnicity, and indeed, he’s the only one to ever bring it up.The sections set in the 1950s have more obvious casual racism. There’s a bit of author blindness to sexism; the Queen rules but all the other speaking women in the 1980s are secretaries, telephone girls, stewardesses and maids. Rosemary majored in history and paid special attention to the suffragette movement, but otherwise seems content with a 1950s style romantic relationship.If you’ve read the book and have some comments, by all means let me know.

  • Alisonnic
    2019-02-16 18:00

    Not his bestI am a big fan of Nevil Shute's, and I love most of his books. But this one is just a little to strange for me. I really did not expect to find myself reading a sci fi/fantasy story, with bold predictions of the future, and a political essay about the evils of socialism and how switching to a mulitple vote policy will save the world. Still, it's a strong story in a lot of ways, with likeable characters and some world-traveling, royalty-loving fun and excitement. And a romance. Of course. But would it be possible, just once, for the *man* to give up his career so the *woman* can have hers after they marry? No, not in Nevil Shute's world.I'm sorry. I don't mean to be snarky. I love Nevil Shute's works, only I just need to vent occasionally about some of his ideosyncracies.

  • Sue Maycock
    2019-02-17 00:13

    I need to be clear here, I did not finish the book. The reason being that I was listening to it on Audible. The narrator was just dreadful. His delivery was erratic and just did not allow for the sentences to flow in any way at all. Just so slow and irritating that despite 3 attempts at trying to get used to him, I decided I could not tolerate it a moment longer.Do I now buy this book in Kindle format or put it behind me altogether? Not convinced that I will.

  • Al
    2019-02-20 00:19

    Taking off from a contemporary (1953) setting in the Australian outback, ITW's main plot line is a look 30 years into the future through the fevered dreams of a dying sheepherder and a pastor who is attending him. This future contains a British Commonwealth with a depopulated and impoverished Great Britain, and flourishing states of Australia and Canada. An exhausted Queen Elizabeth struggles to keep the Commonwealth together, trying to reconcile the envious British with the vigorous "colonial" states. How has it all come to this pass? Voting laws in Australia and Canada were amended to give multiple votes to individuals based on their satisfaction of certain criteria (while Great Britain refuses to do so) and the influence of the enlightened and empowered voters triggered an economic boom. In the words of one (British) character,"One man, one vote, has never really worked....The common man has held the voting power, and the common man has voted consistently to increase his own standard of living, regardless of the long term interests of his children, regardless of the wider interests of his country...Every penny that could be wrung out of the nation has been devoted to raising the standard of living of the least competent elements in the country, who have held the voting power..." How prophetic of our current trend, if not in the Commonwealth, at least in the United States. That's the setting; the story itself contains some of the usual Shute plot elements: a self-sufficient young protagonist (who is a pilot by vocation and a sailor by avocation) and an admirable, industrious young womanwho is attracted to him. Both are serving the royal family in its time of stress. It all adds up to another great Shute tale, spiced up by his foray into broader issues.

  • Stuart Taylor
    2019-01-21 17:02

    I was glad to finish this book and that says it all really. First published in 1953 (I believe), this book is meticulously researched but very leisurely paced with plenty of repetitive padding. Written in the language of the time, its references to half-castes and boongs and abos are considered racially unacceptable today and the central character's nickname: "Nigger", underlines this. If you read this book therefore, you should do so in the spirit of its vintage and not become offended at expressions that were considered okay at the time.The first person rendition of the tale in the voice of a troubled country priest in the Australian bush in the 1930s had me hooked from the start, and despite almost quitting the long winded story in more than one place, the well drawn characters, authentic scenery and subsequent third person storytelling successfully kept me persevering to the end. The plot revolves around the priest's encounter with the local drunk and opium user in the character of an impecunious old man called Stevie. Stevie lives out of town with an enigmatic Chinese man who one day arrives unexpectedly to get the priest (who is suffering a bad recurrence of Malaria himself), and the town hospital's nursing sister to attend Stevie who is mortally ill. Traveling as best they can through the Australian rainy season where the tracks are flooded for months and infested with crocodiles, the nurse loses her medical bag and they find Stevie in the Chinaman's shack, pain wracked and delirious with opium. Without medication or kerosene to light the shack they spend the night dosing Stevie with opium for pain relief and when the priest is alone with him, the dying man reveals a bizarre story set in the ghostly voices of people from a future world.

  • Tobinsfavorite
    2019-02-18 23:21

    I am a big fan of Nevil Shute. In a used book store, I always go to the S's to see if they have any novels I don't have yet. (As a result, I have a small stack of his works I haven't yet read.) It's hard to say "This is one of my favorites" because there aren't really any I don't like, but this is an entertaining, satisfying read with a bit of adventure, a bit of politics (albeit strange, un-American politics), a bit of race commentary, and a bit of romance. I read this many years ago and so may not remember all of it accurately, but I certainly remember enjoying it and recommending it to others, which I still do, with one caveat. Mr. Shute uses The N Word frequently in this book. It is never used in an insulting or derogatory way; in fact, it is adopted as a name by the main character, who is biracial and claims the insult before it can be used against him. However, it is unsettling enough that I must mention it, especially as my reaction hinders me from properly discussing the book.

  • Scilla
    2019-01-22 23:13

    This book is narrated by an old parish priest in outback Australia. He meets Stevie, who usually gets very drunk when he comes to town. They sort of become friends as the priest helps to take care of Stevie. The priest goes out through swollen rivers during the wet to the home where Stevie is living with a Chinese gardener when he hears Stevie is dying. The priest is suffering a relapse of his malaria while Stevie relates a tale of his life some 30 years in the future. He becomes the captain of the crew of a plane for the Queen, and falls in love with one of the Queen's secretaries. The story is fascinating, and later the priest gains some information which makes him believe there might be some truth in the story he has just related.Read again for the Nevil Shute Society February 2017.

  • Gerald
    2019-02-14 19:22

    An interesting book with a beginning setting of very rural Queensland in northeast Australia. A newly assigned clergyman in the area is making his best effort to get to know "his very scattered flock." Among them is an old drunkard who is known as Pisspot Stevie. During "the wet," i.e., the monsoon rain season when the roads are impassable by vehicles, the clergyman is called to the bedside of a dying Stevie. After a harrowing journey on horseback with a nursing sister to get to him, the clergyman, who has a touch of malaria himself, sits up with a very delirious Stevie. During the night after the clergyman asked Stevie about his relatives, Stevie in his delirium, tells him an elaborate and detailed story of his service directly for the Queen of England. A very imaginative and enjoyable novel. I very much recommend it.

  • Kevin Findley
    2019-02-10 21:20

    As with Shute's other books, this one takes you right into the story within the first few pages. He carefully crafted the world of Father (Brother) Hargreaves, made you care about everyone involved and then dropped you into another world thirty years into the future. Then he makes you care even more about this cast of characters.As with most speculative fiction, Shute got many details wrong, but his overarching theme and ideas on socialism and race relations were spot on, especially for a book written back in the 50s. At the end, he brings both worlds together and on a strong note of hope for the future of not just David and Rosemary, but Shute's beloved England and the Commonwealth.It may be difficult to find Nevil Shute's books, but you should take the time to read 'In The Wet' as well as the others. It is well worth your time and money.

  • Colin Mitchell
    2019-01-26 22:02

    I like Neville Shute and read this book in 2013 although it was published in 1953 and was about events happening in the 1980, at that time 30 years in the future. At first is was difficult to put the time scales in perspective having lived through the times. No mention of personal computers! The Queen has retained her residences and the Commonwealth has rather faded away as each member has become independent, there are no Royal residences in Australia, Canada nor Kenya and there was no third world war with Russia although it was a close thing at times. A very good read and recommended to anyone who wants straight forward fiction. No sex or violence.

  • Sue
    2019-01-30 18:10

    Roger Hargreaves is an Anglican priest working in Landsborough, a remote district in Australia. The story is his account of what happened one year during the Wet Season. I'd read this many years ago and only remembered one detail of the ending and nothing more. What I remembered did not spoil the story for me; it may actually have helped. The author seems to have a vast knowledge of planes, or else did extensive research. Well written and it pulled me along wanting to get to the end.

  • Richard
    2019-02-04 15:57

    Shute's best tale. An inspiration to truly speculative thought. On many planes. No pun intended.

  • Richard
    2019-01-27 21:18

    A novel published in 1953. Takes place in England and Australia, with part of the story in the late 30s and some of it in the future 1970s. Shute excels in his descriptions and story line. It is not until the last chapter when all the loose ends come together. David, the protagonist, is a quarter aboriginal, yet rises to a level of personal pilot of the Queen of England. The story appears to move slowly but it did draw me in. I would recommend it but I liked some of his other novels better: A Town like Alice, Pied Piper, and The Far Country.