Read Requiem for a Wren by Nevil Shute Online


Requiem for a Wren (U.S. title The Breaking Wave) is one of Nevil Shute's most poignant and psychologically suspenseful novels, set in the years just after World War II.Sidelined by a wartime injury, fighter pilot Alan Duncan reluctantly returns to his parents' remote sheep station in Australia to take the place of his brother Bill, who died a hero in the war. But his homeRequiem for a Wren (U.S. title The Breaking Wave) is one of Nevil Shute's most poignant and psychologically suspenseful novels, set in the years just after World War II.Sidelined by a wartime injury, fighter pilot Alan Duncan reluctantly returns to his parents' remote sheep station in Australia to take the place of his brother Bill, who died a hero in the war. But his homecoming is marred by the suicide of his parents' parlormaid, of whom they were very fond. Alan soon realizes that the dead young woman is not the person she pretended to be. Upon discovering that she had served in the Royal Navy and participated along with his brother in the secret build-up to the Normandy invasion, Alan sets out to piece together the tragic events and the lonely burden of guilt that unravelled one woman's life. In the process of finding the answer to the mystery, he realizes how much he had in common with this woman he never knew and how a war can go on killing people long after it's all over....

Title : Requiem for a Wren
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781842322864
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 285 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Requiem for a Wren Reviews

  • Meryl
    2019-02-17 17:05

    The thing that keeps me coming back to Shute--and has made him one of my favorites--is his wonderful leading female characters. They're all different enough to make them worth reading, but still similar--smart, sensible, short, plucky. From Moira Davidson facing the end of the world (On the Beach) to Jean Paget on a Malaysian death march (A Town Like Alice) they're the kind of girls that can get through anything, and they do it in the way that I would hope that I would, were I in their shoes.This is the story of what happens when one of those wonderful girls finally breaks....It's also about chasing your youth. As with many of Shute's books, this story was largely set during WWII. And although that was a horrible time for many people, of course, as one of the characters in this book points out, it had to have been at least somewhat exciting in places too....And how do you go back to real life after that?

  • Manny
    2019-01-19 16:09

    I'm trying to guess how many books I've read which in one way or another are about the Second World War. I've read a couple just in the last month, Wilcox's Japan's Secret War and Linebarger's Psychological Warfare. As usual, I was gripped by two contradictory emotions: horror and fascination. I think most people have a similar reaction. The war was monstrous and appalling, but it was also the most exciting, extraordinary period in human history. New techniques, new ideas, new ways of thinking were invented and turned into weapons within a couple of years; sometimes a couple of months. Nothing was impossible, and everyone knew what the purpose of life was. It was to win the war.These thoughts are not, of course, new, and they've been expressed many times. I don't think though that I've ever seen them expressed in quite such a pure form as in this obscure novel. The heroine has served as a WREN in the war, and now it's over there's only one thing she wants: to get back in uniform and do it again. It's a very tragic and thought-provoking story. What does it say about us? I don't think Shute knew either: my feeling is that he was just describing something he'd seen himself, in slightly fictionalised form, because it disturbed him so much and he had to get it out of his system. It's worth reading.

  • Cateline
    2019-02-18 17:50

    Requiem For A Wren by Nevil Shute Shute reveals the end at the beginning, but only part of it, the devastating part. A young woman's suicide that seemingly has no rhyme or reason starts the returning home Aussie pilot on a journey through his past. The attention to detail is fantastic and the reader learns much about the nitty gritty of maintaining the gunnery parts of British WWII ships. I had no idea that there was such a thing as Ordinance Wrens in the War. They were an integral part of the War Effort and they suffered as much of what we know now as PTSD as any of the soldiers that saw action. All of this plays into Shute's story and is worked beautifully into a story of love, war, regret and family. While the author pulls no punches, he does not dramatize, he tells it like it was, laying bare the hearts of the characters. Even knowing of the eventual end of the pivotal character does not take away from the dramatic tension Shute creates throughout the story. He brings us to slow realizations in a wonderfully artistic manner, dawn breaking finally revealing the true depth of each character.Highly Recommended.

  • Peter
    2019-02-04 11:59

    Re-reading is something I avoid, along with watching movies or TV shows a second time. Life's too short for repeats...well, in most cases. This is such a poignant, human novel that it almost demands re-reading. Shute's writing is exactly my cup of tea. There's always a cracking story and the life - and death - of Leading Wren Janet Prentice is a heart-breaker. With D-Day and the aftermath of WW2 as a back-drop Shute's in his real comfort zone. If you think the descriptions of the build-up to the Invasion have a powerful realism, you won't be surprised to know that Shute was there at the time as a naval Lt. Commander and that his day job was designing some of the secret and weird new weapons used on June 6th. Yet this is not a war book, certainly not a chronicle of battle. Shute has crafted an emotional story as pertinent today as at any time. Sometimes attitudes which were current in the 40s and 50s jar a bit. ( "..her action drawings were unusually good for a woman" he says of one character). But the tragedy of missed opportunity which engulfs the two main characters is an eternal tale.

  • Ahmed
    2019-02-01 16:49

    كانت تجربتي الأأولى مع الكاتب هي مدينة مثل أليس وكانت مشجعة كثيرافتشجعت لتكرار التجربة ثانية وما شجعنى أكثر أنها صدرت في سلسلة روايات الهلال العريقةلكن للأسف الترجمة كانت مملة للغاية وركيكة في بعض الأحيانكما أن نيفيل شوت إختار أكثر من راوي للأحداث فشتتنيأقل مما توقعت

  • Megan Baxter
    2019-02-05 13:02

    Sometimes I think I am just not that good at reading some kinds of mainstream fiction. I am too easily aggravated. That's far too broad of a statement, I am aware. It's not like I only read science fiction, or even that science fiction is devoid of characters or plots that piss me the hell off. Still, I have even less patience for those elements when they come wrapped in mundanity.Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  • Jeanette
    2019-02-16 12:50

    Nostalgic needs nabbed Nevil by the novelistic 'nads and gnawed them to nubbins. The only reason I read this all the way to the end was because I wanted to know how Janet Prentice ended up at Coombargana. I'm giving it two stars rather than one because Shute demonstrates very well how people who have served in a great war are at loose ends when the war is over. They find themselves wishing for another war so their lives can once again have meaning and camaraderie. Can't say I'd recommend the book, though. Dreadfully dull, and that's coming from someone who usually enjoys WWII novels.

  • Martina Bučková
    2019-02-13 12:11

    Tgis was my first book from Shute, but browsing the reviews I saw he is quite popular. My first impression of this novel was that it's a crime story. Though it is not, it's a war book and I've read quite some of thos, but this is the first one where leading character fighting in war is a woman. The story is simple about two brothers, Australians, who are very fond of each other. Requiem for a Wren starts from the end of story, when Alan is after long years coming back to Coombargana in Australia to visit his old parents and stay forever. The night before their parlourmaid committed a suicide which was a great shock to all people on the farm. Younger brother Bill is in love with the leading navy wren Janet Prentice, they are just getting to know each other. Her work is to clean the guns, but she also shoots. One day she is meeting Alan Duncan the older brother, pilot and she is impressed by him. Successful young pilot, very modest and quiet. Soon after that Bill dies while deactivating mines in water and Janet's father too. Janet is able to keep his dog thoygh. She is quite devasted, though not decided to leave wrennery just yet as the war is about to end. One day a plane is flying over their ship and she shoots ir down, but at the end the plane and people in it are Czechs, Poles who wanted to join their side. This much adds to her depressions and soon after that Bill's dog dies. She tries few times to take her life, her mother's and aut's deaths are the last ones. She thinks she deserves this for the seven dead people in the plane, she killed. Though her doctor is of different opinion and recommends her to go to Australia, to meet Bills family and she does and is very happy at the farm. She realize she wants Alan to fall in love with her just to be able to stay on the place she started to feel at home and therefore the she takes her life. This is quite a good novel consider the war scenes, though I was bored in some parts of it.

  • Ralph Sayle
    2019-01-20 12:14

    Great book.I was touristing in England a couple of decades ago and visited Bucklers Hard. Their small museum had a feature about Neville Shute's Requiem for a Wren but I had no idea what the display was about.A day or so later I was in Plymouth and walked into a used bookshop near Sutton Harbour. First book I spotted was Requiem for a Wren! I was fated to buy the book.Glorious read and the first "war book" that spoke of the postwar stresses... not PTSD but "war is over! what shall I do now" stress. I've heard a second hand tale from one children of a war veteran (RAF Group Captain) who said "the war years were the best years of my life" and then he added "never tell that to your mother".I suppose the best modern term to describe these war veterans is "adrenalin junkies". The war is over and everything is now an anticlimax. They queued to get into the Korean War and were turned down. What can they do and what don't they end up doing? Great book, great read and gives a perspective you never hear about these days.

  • David Gilchrist
    2019-01-19 16:03

    One of this authors more outstanding works, very sad, but a really good read.

  • Stephen
    2019-02-12 17:47

    interesting read based around the time of the D Day landings and relationships between 2 brothers and a WREN who later appears in Australia after the war and the events around DDay and her life until that fateful day as researched by the remaining brother.

  • Aliya Whiteley
    2019-01-22 14:58

    A wonderful depiction of what it's like to live through a time of great danger and excitement, and to find meaning for yourself in that experience. But then that time ends, and life goes on, and it is so very difficult to be unimportant, and not very good at anything in particular. Shute somehow balances this and keeps interest throughout in our lead character, whether she's excelling herself or hiding away, unable to face the world any more. She never seems less than real. I cried for her.

  • Haytham Mohamed
    2019-01-27 19:04

    Another great novel by Shute. The only thing I didn't like was the ending, you got the feeling that you knew this was coming the whole time but hoped it happened in a more convenient way than it did. Chapter 10 felt like it was written in a bit of a hurry! But nonetheless, an excellent & emotional book to read!

  • Robin_R
    2019-01-25 12:13

    My review is on my book blog: https://afondnessforreading.wordpress...

  • Sally
    2019-01-31 11:49

    Nevil Shute has such an interesting way of writing and once again in this book I felt that I was discovering how the character thought and felt as he muddled his way through life. The story is fascinating in its description of life before and after the WW2 in England and how those involved in the forces were left puzzled and directionless in this new world of peace. Nevil also describes the difficulty people had in finding those who had once been close in a narrative that is a bit like a tv crime drama - what will happen next?One thing I truly love about his writing is his understanding of Australia and its people. I love this quote -'It takes a long time for an Australian to accept the fact that the wide, bustling, sophisticated world of the northern hemisphere cannot compare with his own land in certain ways; I was nearly forty years old, and I was only now realizing that by any standard of the wider world my own home was most beautiful.'Australians are great travellers but Nevil has us pegged.

  • Zora
    2019-01-19 15:54

    The convoluted narrative structure didn't do the tale any favors here, and it often made no logical sense. (How could the narrator have known the Wren never spoke of X or had a sleepless night, when none of his informants or the diary told him so?) In a sense, it's a tale of a female British WW II combatant suffering from PTSD...and of the men who loved her. But as with Pied Piper, Shutes seems to be hanging on to a Victorian novel structure, with a framing narrative device that isn't necessary. It does stretch a novella worth of story into a novel, but does nothing for this reader. The characters are terrific. But....I have a stack of five more Shutes from my underfunded library, where nothing is ever thrown away, but if any more use a framing device, I'll give those a pass.

  • Vivian
    2019-01-20 16:04

    I love reading Nevil Shute books. They are always very interesting. This one got almost too heavy into the artillery and details that I was a little lost for awhile but in the end , the whole story came together. A sad but good read.

  • Carofish
    2019-02-10 16:52

    This is well written but dated. The authors ingrained attitude towards women is offensive to us today. Enjoyed the story though and it really made me think about how little one really knows about the effects of war unless you are in it.

  • Aaron
    2019-01-20 15:56

    The story of Alan Duncan begins with his homecoming to Coombargana, a sheep farming station in the Western District of Australia. On the day before his return, the trusted parlor maid on the station, of whom his parents were very fond, died in her room unexpectedly; coincidence?

  • Lisa
    2019-02-05 19:55

    In 1985-86 I read my way through every Nevil Shute I could get my hands on!

  • Megan
    2019-02-09 14:52

    This was slow to build, but poignant in the end. Another WWII narrative of the individual impact of war. Nevil Shute is a writer I would definitely recommend.

  • Mike Harper
    2019-02-07 15:51

    Do you like tear-jerkers? If yes, read this. But don't listen to it. Read it. Go to your library and get it.

  • Sarah Sammis
    2019-02-10 16:55

    Aka The Breaking wave

  • Roz Morris
    2019-01-30 13:04

    Poignant, complex and beautifully written. Alan Duncan reluctantly returns home to his parents' farm in Australia after the war, to recuperate after being maimed in a plane crash. He discovers the family in turmoil because their young housekeeper, Jessie, has committed suicide. As he searches through her belongings, he realises that the woman was actually Janet Prentice, the former girlfriend of his brother, who died in action. And Alan, who is psychologically broken as well as physically, has spent a considerable amount of time trying to find her.Janet was haunted by a decision she made in the course of her war duties. After that one mistake, she loses all her cherished people, one by one, as the war takes them, which she comes to feel is justice for her unforgivable act. As a character she is heartbreaking; as a symbol she embodies the impossible burdens of war. Meanwhile, Alan, who needs his own healing, has become obsessed with his quest to find her. The cruellest accident of all is Alan's arrival at the house in Australia, too late to meet her in person. As we read, the pressure of this timing grows to tragic proportions; if he had come home just a few months earlier, would that have saved Janet in some way? Could she have forgiven herself? Would it have saved him? Masterful.

  • Wanda
    2019-01-25 12:06

    "Like some infernal monster, still venomous in death, a war can go on killing people for a long time after it's all over." That's the heart of this thoughtful, deeply-felt novel. But it's also more than that. It's about wishing to go back to before. Before it all started to go wrong, before meaning began to fly apart, before the future crowded in on us, trampled our plans, our hopes, our expectations."Why do any of us look back on our war service with such pleasure, in spite of everything? You'd be glad to be back in the RAF in another war, and you know it. If it happened again, I'd be back in the Wrens like a shot."For our generation, the war years were the best time of our lives, not because they were war years but because we were young. The best years of our lives happened to be war years. Everyone looks back at the time when they were in their early twenties with nostalgia, but when we look back we only see the war." That's one part of it, the good times, the happy days, the excitement, exotic locations, important job skills, the friendships, the being on your own. But that all comes to an end at some point. Something happens. The war--which is about nothing but killing, destroying life--reaches out to you in its callous, indifferent way, and if it doesn't kill you outright, it kills you slowly, tormenting you, crushing you. Forever."Helen found me much changed by the war, and changed for the worse. I had gone to it a pleasant, affable and intelligent young man, a good dancer and skier, popular with her friends. I had come back from it an unpleasant, soured cripple, contemptuous of her friends and their way of life, a man with a sharp, bitter tongue, and a fairly heavy drinker.""Requiem for a Wren" has at it's core one day--just one--when everything balanced perfectly. All the excitement of being young and in a war as it rushed toward a history-shaking climax--D-Day--but before the bad things, the inevitable, inexplicable disasters, happened. Everything spins out from that one spring day, those few hours of a boat ride and a picnic when life was as perfect as it could ever be, even though those experiencing it did not realize it then, and those who survived did not perhaps ever realize it, or understand that it was that day driving them for all the rest of their lives. That they were only trying to get back to before.Of course, a big part of what makes a novel a personally memorable experience is how well it is written, what details of daily life and thought are evoked, how well and empathetically personality is delineated. Nevil Shute does all that so well."I said goodbye to Mrs. Pasmanik and walked slowly three or four blocks up the street to the Sunset Hill bus that would take me back to town. These were the streets she must know very well, the surroundings that had formed her in the years that she had spent in this district while I searched for her in England. Here were the stores where she had done the daily shopping for her aunt, the A. & P. and the Safeway, far from her home in Oxford, far from the Beaulieu River and from Oerlikon guns.""I still pray for Dev every night because I think dogs need our prayers more than people. We know that God looks after people when they die and that Daddy and Mummy and Bill are all right, but we don't know that about dogs. Unless somebody keeps on praying to God about dogs when they die they may get forgotten and just fade out."The novel's protagonist, Alan Duncan, spends years of his life after the war looking for his brother's girlfriend, the Wren of the title, whom he met only once. That only makes sense if he is not really searching for this person whom he scarcely knows at all, but if he is searching for that day, the day they met. On that day nothing bad had yet happened to him, his brother, or her. It was the best day of the best years of their lives. Shortly afterward the war slammed them with death, handicapping injury and irrecoverable psychic wounds.All of that perhaps could have been handled if the war had gone on and they had been able to continue playing a useful, satisfying role in it. But it of course ended and those who survived left the service and were thrown out into a world that simply forgot. Nothing that they had done, that they had survived, meant anything anymore. It was all gone."It seemed so much the normal way of life after the war that one didn't do anything about it. And then one day I woke up--we all woke up--and had to realize that it had all been quite unusual; it would never come again. Not for us, not in our lifetime. We should be too old, or married--out of it. And then I felt I had to work and work and put it all down, everything I had seen, before I forgot what it was like. It's very hard to realize that it will never come again."So what do you do then? One woman, who suffered a psychic break when the emotional trauma of the war overwhelmed her, and was discharged, does nothing but try to get back into the navy, hoping for another war so they will call her back, so it will be as it was before, but otherwise drifts through her life, her emotional wounds--raw and fresh, never healing--she does not understand, and they are certainly never treated. One man, similarly drifting, with his own psychic wounds, undertakes a years-long search for her, not because he has some deep personal connection with her, but because she represents his before, when he was physically and mentally whole and his life was full of meaning and purpose.These people move through a landscape full of accurate, careful detail, clearly and often beautifully described, and interact with others whose personalities are real and true and sincere.This is a wonderful book. I recognize friends and patients, and perhaps even myself, in its pages.

  • Girl with her Head in a Book
    2019-02-07 18:59

    Review originally published here: Shute is one of those authors that I know little of but who I keep hearing about. He wrote A Town Like Alice amongst others but the first book of his that I happened to find in the library was Requiem For A Wren and so here we are. Written in the 1950s, this is a melancholic reflection on life as a World War Two survivor, with very little in the way of joy and much to mourn. It lingers in the mind as an unhappy novel, depicting the tragedy of a veteran generation who did not die. Alan Duncan returns home to Australia after a long absence to discover his parents' home in uproar as the previously entirely respectable and reliable parlourmaid has committed suicide the night before. Despite never having met the girl, Alan is determined to discover what could have driven her to such a step but his investigation leads him to a heartbreaking revelation about her true identity. This is a quiet and very 'stiff upper lip' kind of a novel contemplating how the experiences of wartime can continue to overshadow the lives of those who lived through it. Both the title and the opening event make it clear that this was never going to be a happy tale but it never feels overblown. Stunning.I feel unwilling to detail the plot here - it is not so much a story built on cliffhangers and twists but it is a book where one gets to know the characters. Alan seems to be a rather shallow character at first; he is returning from England having completed a law degree which he seems to have done for purely recreational purposes because he was not ready to face up to his responsibilities on the family farm. He has lost both feet as part of his wartime service as a pilot so one might forgive him for wanting to have a good time but he is honest with himself about how little attention he has given his parents over the years. His younger brother Bill died during the war and his sister Helen appears to be permanently settled in England - the reliable parlourmaid has been a more dutiful daughter than Alan has been a son. Yet Alan is shocked to discover Jessie Proctor's true identity - before taking her own life, she had unsuccessfully sought to destroy all traces of the fact that she was in fact former Leading Wren Janet Prentice, who had been engaged to Bill at the time of his death. The story of how Janet came to be working on the farm and hiding her true name consumes the rest of the novel as Shute attempts via Alan to explain how the war service can scar those who appeared to have emerged unscathed.Janet and Alan only ever met briefly, one lovely afternoon when Bill introduced them - keen to get his elder brother's approval about his prospective bride. Despite Alan's emotional reticence as a narrator, there is a sweetness to how Alan quietly assures Bill that he will write to their mother to let them know that Janet is 'all right.' Bill is delighted, proud of the Leading Wren he has met, who is a local celebrity as a crack shot and also for her ability to spot a rusty gun at ten paces. The engagement is to remain a secret until after 'the balloon goes up', with all these young people's lives put on hold by war. Of course, Bill will be dead only a few weeks later and not long after that Alan's plane is shot down and he nearly dies and with one thing and another, it is a long while before he gets round to contacting Janet to offer his condolences. He is never able to trace her, but yet we hear about the circumstances of her life through those who did know her as Alan treads in her footsteps, trying to catch up with her.Set in the mid 1950s, the characters have a guilty kind of nostalgia for their wartime lives. Alan acknowledges to himself what a ghastly creature he has become, unable to function during peace. Her father's death in combat, the loss of Bill and then one final tragedy on top drive Janet out of the Wrens, to her ever-lasting regret. In Janet's diaries, we chart her struggles to rejoin and hear her hopes that the Korean War will get worse so that the Wrens will need her again. One of her former colleagues tells Alan that this is what is to be expected - they were young at the time of the war and are young no longer, so they naturally wish for war again as it was the time of their lives. Still, I was reminded of hearing an interview with one of the children of the Birmingham Six who was devastated upon her father's release that he would speak wistfully of his time in prison, since it was there that he had spent the best years of his life, even if they should rightly have been spent elsewhere. People died in the war, hopes were shattered and loves lost but yet still Janet, Alan and others like them look back on this time with pride and longing. They have been broken by war and yet without it, they are lost.Perhaps very little happens within Requiem For A Wren - stepping outside of Alan's narration, a man returns home after a long absence to receive the fatted calf of welcome from his parents and then reads their recently deceased parlour-maid's diaries in his room. The rest of it is happening in his mind, somewhere where we have a unique privilege. Janet Prentice is never able to speak for herself, she is doomed and dead before the novel ever begins - the two of them just miss each other. There is almost Shakespearean mis-direction and a deeply melancholic overall tone but yet I still felt that despite the improbable circumstances, Shute was speaking for a generation, a generation who were primed to win a war and then did not know what to do with themselves afterwards. Lost souls like Alan have no choice but to take a deep breath and do the right thing, to feel fortunate to still have family connections who love them but it feels like right to pause and remember those like Janet who were less lucky.

  • Laura Powell
    2019-02-10 13:13

    I almost quit reading this book, but I am glad I finished it. Toward the end, Alan, remarked that war has many victims long after peace has been achieved. Janis Prentiss is a WREN serving the in WWII. She services the weapons on ships getting ready for D Day, and also finds she enjoys firing the. Given the chance she shoots down a German plane only to be told it was being flown by deserters seeking refuge in England. She feels she must lose seven people dead to her in repayment . The story follows her all the way to Australia, and the search of the man who loves her. I had to get past all of the military details that Shut loves so much, but his stories are so human and thoughtful.

  • Katharine
    2019-01-29 14:57

    An oldie but a goodie about the aftermath of war and those who never quite escape it. I suspect Nevil Shute enjoyed learning all about the Navy, Oerlikon guns and Overlord also know as "when the balloon goes up" as the story does tend to get a bit bogged down in information rather than narrative at times. I still thoroughly enjoy almost anything Shute writes but after reading Requiem a few times, there are a few chapters I just have to skim over. As long as you remember when this was written you can forgive the blatant sexism. And as for falling in love after you meet someone once - call me unromantic - I find the premise silly.

  • David Linzee
    2019-01-29 19:10

    Shute manages to combine first-person narration and a rather complex flashback structure with his usual skill. The book is silky-smooth and from a quiet beginning the story gathers force and becomes enthralling. It's a sad World War II story about women caught up in their wartime service who are unable to settle down to civilian life afterwards. One of them even says that what she needs is another war. A present day reader is likely to reflect that what she needs is simply a job, a chance to get out of the house and feel like she's part of something bigger. The book has dated.

  • Wynne
    2019-02-02 12:51

    3.5 stars? Nevil Shute could really write a STORY! He pulls you in quickly and it is hard to put down. This was actually a terribly sad novel about what we now would call PTSD. And both a man and a woman were suffering. But there are moments of sweetness. "..he was one of those bumbling, good humored, rather incompetent dogs, good for a lonely man or girl to look after....He's such fool you can't help liking him."