My life might have been very different had my parents or I made other decisions. They met and married in Australia but decided to return to Scotland, arriving just before I was born. But Australia was never far from their minds and I grew up with a picture of it as an idyllic place. And this image was strengthened as I read the novels of Nevil Shute. Shute was a cracking storyteller and a genius at bringing his settings to life. My favourite of his novels is The Far Country, ostensibly the story of Jennifer Morton, a minor civil servant, living in London, and Carl Zlinter, a Czech doctor turned New Australian. But really it’s a love story about Shute’s new home. One doesn’t need to know that Shute emigrated to rural Victoria just before writing this book to discern where his heart lies; nor does it come as any great surprise that Jenny and Carl choose Australia. I almost did too.
I became aware of the books of RF Delderfield because of the BBC’s adaptation of Diana. I didn’t actually watch it but I read about it and then read the book. However, much as I enjoyed it, it’s not my favourite. That honour goes (narrowly) to To Serve Them All My Days, also televised but unwatched by me! I think it’s the saga-like all-enveloping storyline I like most. It’s very easy to get lost in the novel as time passes both actually and fictionally. David Powlett-Jones is a wonderful leading man full of faults, failings and insecurities. We meet him as a shell-shocked soldier of the Great War lacking all belief in his abilities and live with him through more than twenty years as he develops and matures. Although he changes he is always recognisably the same man and there is a tremendous sense of continuity throughout the novel.