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Pied Piper (1942)

by Nevil Shute

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7553121,233 (4.1)117
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY JOHN BOYNEJohn Howard is determined to brighten up his old age by taking a fishing trip to France. However, during his stay the Nazis invade and he is forced to try to escape back to England with the two small children of some friends who are forced to stay behind in order to help the Allied war effort. As the conflict grows closer the roads become impassable and Howard also comes across five more children who need his help. He ends up leading this motley group of youngsters through the French countryside, constantly beset by danger yet heroically protecting his charges.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
Interesting story - it kind of starts at the end, we know that at least the man got out of it. But the complications piling up are fascinating. And the attitude towards WWII, early on - oh well, yes, there's fighting over there but I'll just have a normal vacation trip - is fascinating (and I'm pretty sure, accurate). The way he keeps accidentally collecting kids is both amusing and poignant - I was very close to crying at several points, not when crises were happening but just along the way. A purely civilian take on war - they're just caught up in events, and manage as best they can. Very rich (well, it is a Shute); some of the characters are very simply drawn but even ones we only meet briefly seem to have depths to them. Lovely. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Oct 17, 2020 |
Highly readable tale of a well-to-do 70 year old British man who - after his son's death in the early days of WW2- goes to France for a fishing holiday. Things don't seem too bad out there, but tjhe situation abruptly worsens, and as he makes a sudden return to England, he agrees to take a diplomat friend's two children back with him. But as trains are cancelled, hotels requisitioned, and bombings begin, the little goup, making their ramshackle way through France, encounter three other children in need of rescue...
Will they make it, as the German presence becomes ever more pervasive? Jolly good read. ( )
  starbox | Oct 13, 2020 |
This book was recommended to me by a friend and I'm glad I read it.

It's set during WW2 and was written while the war was still ongoing and the outcome unknown.

War is not kind to old men. Too old to fight and with little sense of purpose, John Howard goes to southern France to take a break fishing.

While there, he is asked by an acquaintance if he will take their two children back to England for safety, as the war is spreading further and they no longer feel safe.

Howard agrees, but what should have been a simple journey home gets more and more complicated as the Germans start advancing across France. Trains get cancelled, food gets harder to find. Being English suddenly becomes very dangerous, and to make life even more difficult, there are other children that the war has left in dire straits.

One of the reasons this story works so well for me is that Howard is a very believable character. He's not a man given to emotional outbursts or temper - he's calm and organised and takes things as they come. Which is not to say that he isn't worried or concerned or uncaring, but he's 70 and he knows his own physical limitations and he also knows exactly how hard you can push young children before everything becomes too much for them. Therefore, when he has to take things slowly, he accepts that and doesn't waste energy over things he can't control.

He manages to shield the children, as far as he can, from a full understanding of what is going on around them, and oddly enough, this makes the reader even more aware of the impact of war.

In a quiet, understated way, this is war from the civilian angle, long streams of refugees, people dying in allied bombing raids, the ongoing struggle for food and shelter.

Do they make it safely to England?

Read the book and find out for yourself. ( )
  JudithProctor | Aug 2, 2020 |
Oh, yes! Another lovely story by Nevil Shute. It's even got some airplanes and sailing about in the English Channel.

But mostly it's the story of an "old" man (70, not so old these days, or so I hope), John Howard, who needs a break from England after losing his son. So, in 1940, he goes off to southeast France for a fishing trip. He befriends a couple there who live in Geneva. They have two children, George and Sheila, who are 8 and 5 respectively. They worry about the coming war and convince Howard to take their kids back to England where they can wait out the war at their uncle's place.

As Howard makes his way across France and back to England, the Germans are in the process of invading France and taking it over. So Howard has to keep changing his travel plans. Along the way, he picks up additional small children and has something like seven of them in his entourage by the end of the book. He also joins up, for a time, with a young woman who would have been his son's bride, had said son not been killed flying in an RAF raid.

I don't know quite more to say. Nevil Shute is awesome, and while this might not be his best, it's certainly good enough. I've now read seven books by Shute, and can't wait to get going on another. Each one is a delight in its own way. ( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
I think this might be one of my favourite books by this author. I found it hard to put down.
Mr Howard after receiving the news of his sons death in the early months of World War 11, decides to take a break in France at a favourite fishing spot. He thought that the beauty of the place would bring him comfort and renewed hope for the future. When Germany invades France, Howard realises it is time to return to England before he is unable to. He receives a request from some fellow guests, asking him if they can send their two young children back with him. A trip that should only take a day. But the situation rapidly changes and Howard is forced on a circuitous route through occupied France with the children. Along the way he receives further requests to escort more children and he also picks up others who have been orphaned. It is a page-turning read but heart-warming. ( )
  HelenBaker | Sep 11, 2018 |
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His name is John Sidney Howard, and he is a member of my club in London.
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The old man bustled round and cleared a heap of books from the only other chair in the room.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY JOHN BOYNEJohn Howard is determined to brighten up his old age by taking a fishing trip to France. However, during his stay the Nazis invade and he is forced to try to escape back to England with the two small children of some friends who are forced to stay behind in order to help the Allied war effort. As the conflict grows closer the roads become impassable and Howard also comes across five more children who need his help. He ends up leading this motley group of youngsters through the French countryside, constantly beset by danger yet heroically protecting his charges.

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