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Pied Piper by Nevil Shute

Pied Piper (1942)

by Nevil Shute

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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 |
Pied Piper - Nevil Shute *****

There are many authors that at one time were very popular, and yet these days seem to have been almost forgotten in the mists of time. Unfortunately Nevil Shute appears to be one of these, and I really can’t understand why. True his books are ‘of a time’ but the stories are just as relevant today and so stunningly told that I just can’t wait to turn the page.

Pied Piper is no exception and stands as one the strongest works in the Shute catalogue. As usual with his novels there is no gratuitous violence, no dramatic sex scenes and no bad language, just pages and pages of well written prose with a gentle storyline that persuades the reader to join him over the duration.

We follow an elderly gentleman who becomes trapped in France just after the outbreak of the Second World War. He decides he needs to return home and somewhat reluctantly he agrees to take a friend’s children with him, as the parents fear for their safety with the approaching Nazi war machine. Desperately trying to make his way back home to England he picks up an ever growing number of children that have fallen on hard times (hence the title), and despite his advanced age shows us what the ‘Keep calm and carry one’ message really meant. With constant setbacks and obstacles in his path he must draw upon his ingenuity and limited resources. The journey however isn’t just a physical one and acts as a metaphor for the healing process he must undertake following the death of his son.
The plot has a number of twists and turns, and the ending when it comes is most unexpected. Although Shute is a subtle writer, when he needs to sock it the reader he is unafraid to add the specific details required and the reader is left under no illusion as to the horrors of war.

Shute should have a legacy as being the master of writing about ordinary people thrust into situations where they become extraordinary. Maybe this isn’t his greatest novel (my own favourite is ‘On the Beach’) but it as good a place to start as any. ( )
  Bridgey | Sep 26, 2016 |
During an air raid, a young man who has just dined in his London club decides not to go down to the air raid shelter. Instead he goes up to the bar where he joins the only other person there – an elderly man called John Howard. Left by the barman with a bottle of Marsala, they begin chatting and slowly the old man tells the younger of an amazing adventure he has had…

Visiting a ‘safe’ area of France in 1940 to have a holiday and do some fishing, he spends a pleasant few days in a hotel, enjoying the peace and quiet during the day and getting to know the other guests at dinner time. But whilst he is there, news comes that the Germans are about to invade France and he resolves to leave. A young couple who live in Geneva persuade Howard to take their two children, Ronnie aged 8 and Sheila aged 5 back to England to stay with relatives where they will be safe. Howard eventually agrees and the next morning the three of them set off on their journey. It will be an easy one – a train to Paris and then another to St Malo, where they will be able to board a boat for the UK.

But plans are thwarted when Sheila becomes unwell. They make an unscheduled stop at Dijon, and whilst there, the threatened invasion takes place. Howard agrees to take an older child, niece of a maid at the hotel – but as transport becomes severely disrupted and they must continue their journey by any means possible – mostly on foot but occasionally by hitching a ride or finding a train that is running. Along the way, Howard, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, picks up other children and a young woman and together they try to make it out of France and back to the safety of England.

I read this for a reading group discussion but I would have picked it up sooner or later as it’s been one I’ve been meaning to read for years – it was on my parent’s bookshelf long before I was married! What a fantastic story – I was hooked from the word go. It was wonderful – amusing in places, sad and happy at the same time – a story of hope and courage. Although the situation – an elderly man travelling with a group of children from ages 5 to about 12 – seems unbelievable, it isn’t at all – it’s totally convincing! I almost want to start it again from the beginning – and that seldom happens – highly recommended! ( )
  Bagpuss | Jan 17, 2016 |
very good story. i wish it were true! ( )
  mahallett | Nov 17, 2015 |
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His name is John Sidney Howard, and he is a member of my club in London.
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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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307474011, Paperback)

One of Nevil Shute’s most exciting novels, Pied Piper is the gripping story of one elderly man's daring attempt to rescue a group of children during the Nazi invasion of France.

It is the spring of 1940 and John Sidney Howard wants nothing more than to enjoy his fishing holiday in southern France in peace and quiet. However, the Nazi conquest of the Low Countries puts an end to that, and he is asked by friends to take their two children back to England. Crossing France with his young charges seems simple enough at first—until the Germans invade, rendering them fugitives. As Howard struggles to sneak across France, he picks up several more helpless children of various nationalities. They walk for miles in an endless river of refugees, strafed by German planes and hiding in barns at night. By the time Howard and his flock of little ones reach the Channel, his plan of escaping on a fishing boat has become utterly impossible, and in their final confrontation with the invaders, all their lives are at stake.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:14 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Goaded by the evacuation of Dunkirk, a retired solicitor on holiday in the Jura mountains promises to escort two English children to safety. So swift and terrible is the Germans' advance that their progress is slow, and the old man finds himself chaperon to an increasing number of waifs and strays.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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