I think I have said on these pages before Nevil Shute is the author I look for most often when in second hand book shops. I was very happy to come across Requiem for a Wren when in a National Trust Second Hand book shop around Christmas time.
Requiem for a Wren like many of Shute’s novels is set between the UK and Australia. Alan Duncan is returning to his parents large farm, after some years in the UK where he served during the 2nd world war. Alan’s brother was killed during the war. This is his second time Alan has returned home since the war. The first time he came but found himself unable to settle and returned to England to complete studies in Law. This time he arrives to the news that his parents parlour maid has inexplicably taken her own life. Back home and searching through her belongings he comes across some revelations about her true identity, the connections she has with his family and the desperate implications of this.
This novel contains sadness and heartbreak as Alan copes with the death of his brother and the disappearance of his brothers finance Janet. Despite only having met Janet once, the effect she has on him is significant and he spends years searching for her firstly in the UK before finally heading to the USA. During his search he comes into contact with other veterans who have survived war but like him struggle to find purpose during peace.
The novel flicks between the past and the present, giving detail to the events during the war which have understandably shaped Alan’s life afterwards. Alan retells the events with a quiet precision. There is a melancholy to this novel full of missed opportunities and sadness. It is a first class exploration of the difficulties survivors of war faced trying to adapt to civilian life. War gave men and women a sense worth, a meaning and a routine that they struggled to find during peace and there are a number of scenes where Janet, Alan and their contemporaries are forced to admit that they rather enjoyed war.
I cannot extol the virtues of Nevil Shute enough and although he is rather old fashioned and some of his observations concerning women may be somewhat outdated I cannot help but admire the kind way in which he writes. If you have yet to discover the delights of Shute’s writing I encourage you to seek him out.
You can find my other reviews of Nevil Shute books here.
Angela is a 40 something fully paid up bookworm and a regular contributor to The Black Lion Journal. She lives and works in London. By day you will find her working in a busy hospital as a Macmillan Palliative Care Nurse Specialist.
Review by Angela Vincent of Changing Pages | The Black Lion is a humble interdisciplinary journal that values your voice. For contribution opportunities, Join As A Contributor; to learn more about submitting to the journal’s creative magazine, visit the The Wire’s Dream Magazine: Submit. | Copyright Policy