Wednesday 12 March 2014

Most secret by Nevil Shute


This is one of Shute’s boat novels (he really, really likes boats and airplanes, especially airplanes) set in WW2 with a cast of characters who all want revenge against the Germans for one reason or another. An Englishman raised in France is put in charge of a boat of Free French, Danish and odd English characters in a series of daring raids on the French Coast. Since it’s Shute you know it’s not going to end well although it was a better ending for some of the characters than I expected. It’s a bit of a slow burner as Shute spends over half the book setting up the characters, and plot. He also uses an interesting technique which serves to distance you from the action as the narrator stays in Britain whilst the action happens and then there’s a report of how the action went followed by a personal account by one of the men. It’s a bit odd and I’m not sure it worked all that well. Still this is a WW2 adventure story that ticks all the Shute boxes - engineering as hero, affection for transport (in this case boat), romantic involvement, manly men, action, pathos, a downbeat ending. Shute is one of my go to authors who seems to be consistently good but is a bit of a comfort read. Although this is perhaps not the best place to start with his catalogue.

Overall – Stiff upper lips and derring do in one of Shute’s boat novels

Born Weird by Andrew Kauffman


The five siblings of the Weird family have all been given a blursing (should be a blessing but has turned into a curse) by their grandmother when they were born. The blursings give the Weirds particular capabilities or predispositions; Lucy never gets lost, Abba never loses hope, Richard always keeps safe, Kent will win any physical fight, and Angie always forgives.. These have pushed the sibling’s lives in strange directions and the grandmother realises that she can remove these blursings upon her deathbed, which she accurately predicts to be on her birthday. She charges Angie to gather the Weirds together and bring them to her bedside at the moment of her death. What follows is a strange family dysfunctional road trip across Canada and beyond which skirts whimsy and plays with weird. This is a much better novel than the waterproof bible which had put me off his books, but someone I trust a lot recommended this. I’m still not 100% sure I’m a Kauffman fan but I did read this straight after watching Wes Anderson’s latest film and I think that helped put me in the right frame of mind.

Overall – Off the wall slice of gentle weirdness

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