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Old 02-20-2013, 11:59 AM   #7
Hamlet53
Feast of the Goat
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Much of what I was to say about this book has already been stated by others, especially Issybird. The racism in Australia, the implausible occurrences, and Shute's playing fast and loose with the story narration.

I would also add that it made me uncomfortable to be reminded of the superior attitude of the British colonial occupiers towards the Japanese and the Malaysians. Taking a quote from the book:


Quote:
‘No nets, no beds,’ he [Captain Yoniata] said. ‘Very sorry for you. Japanese womans sleep on mat on floor. All Japanese sleep on mat. You put away proud thoughts, very bad thing. You sleep on mat like Japanese womans.’

‘But we’re English,’ she [Mrs Horsefall] said indignantly. ‘We don’t sleep on the floor like animals!’
His eyes hardened; he motioned to the sentries, who gripped her by each arm. Then he hit her four stinging blows upon the face with the flat of his hand. ‘Very bad thoughts,’ he said, and turned upon his heel, and left them. No more was said about beds.
Even defeated and prisoners of the Japanese the British expected to be treated like hothouse flowers. I was reminded of this quote form the film The Bridge on the River Kwai:

Quote:
"I hate the British! You are defeated but you have no shame. You are stubborn but you have no pride. You endure but you have no courage. I hate the British!" Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) from his Oscar worthy performance.
I was also struck by the sexist attitudes prevalent in the book.

Quote:
I nodded. ‘Of course not. Well, you’ll find it all in legal language in the copy of the will which I shall give you, but what it means is this, Miss Paget. Your uncle, when he made this will, had a very poor opinion of the ability of women to manage their own money. I’m sorry to have to say such a thing, but it is better for you to know the whole of the facts.’

She laughed. ‘Please don’t apologize for him, Mr Strachan. Go on.’

‘At first, he was quite unwilling that you should inherit the capital of the estate till you were forty years old,’ I said. ‘I contested that view, but I was unable to get him to agree to any less period than the present arrangement in the will. Now, the object of a trust is this. The testator appoints trustees – in this case, myself and my partner – who undertake to do their best to preserve the capital intact and hand it over to the legatee – to you – when the trust expires.’

‘I see. Uncle Douglas was afraid that I might spend the fifty-three thousand all at once.’

I nodded. ‘That was in his mind. He did not know you, of course, Miss Paget, so there was nothing personal about it. He felt that in general women were less fit than men to handle large sums of money at an early age.’

She said quietly, ‘He may have been right.’ She thought for a minute, and then she said, ‘So you’re going to look after the money for me till I’m thirty-five and give me the interest to spend in the meantime? Nine hundred a year?’
So I can understand that attitude about the competence of women being accepted in society, and by Strachan, but Jean Padget who had survived the ordeal during WWII and since then making her own way just fine agreeing with it?

I did think that this was definitely in the correct category as a romance. It was a fairy tale type romance, two people destined to be together meet under trying circumstances, are parted by history, yet in the end come together through almost miraculous means and live happily ever after.

Quote:
Originally Posted by desertblues View Post
It was the first time I read something of Nevil Shute and I rather liked the book. Perhaps the fact that I read it straight after Nabokov's Lolita did attribute something to this.

I read it in a day and liked it; a nice uncomplicated romance, about nice people; a bit old fashioned. It remembered me of my early reading days, when there were not many childrens book around and I made do with what I could find in the house.

It was written in 1950 and is very much a contemporary novel. I think it was common to speak about coloured people in, now seen as, racist wording. Colonialism was still a normal thing then, although many countries were in the process of decolonization.

Some things in this book are too good to be true; the coïncidence of Joe and Jean Paget both hearing news about each other and others. Also the story of how its told by Strachan is a bit far fetched, in the sense that he is, wrongly, presented as an omniscient narrator. He seems to hover above all, knowing all and that is just not possible.

What surprised me, although I should have known it, is the story of the capture of British and Australians by the Japanese. I only know the tales of the Dutch that have suffered in the camps of the Japanese (women and children) and the men working on the Burma Railway. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanes...n_of_Indonesia
In that sense this book has contributed to my awareness of their history.
Also it was one of the few times that I read something about life in Australia in the 50ies.
From the author's note section of my ebook edition:

Quote:
On the publication of this book I expect to be accused of falsifying history, especially in regard to the march and death of the homeless women prisoners. I shall be told that nothing of the sort ever happened in Malaya, and this is true. It happened in Sumatra.
After the conquest of Malaya in 1942 the Japanese invaded Sumatra and quickly took the island. A party of about eighty Dutch women and children were collected in the vicinity of Padang. The local Japanese commander was reluctant to assume responsibility for these women and, to solve his problem, marched them out of his area; so began a trek all round Sumatra which lasted for two and a half years. At the end of this vast journey less than thirty of them were still alive.
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