Friday, April 07, 2006

Thoughts on "Pied Piper" -- A Guest Blog from Claire Hartford

A couple of weeks ago (yes, I'm a little late writing this "guest post"), the Notting Hill Napoleons met to discuss Pied Piper by Nevil Shute in what was a kinda' rare event; namely, every member raved about the book we had just read! Only Denny and I were fans of Nevil Shute beforehand so it was a nice treat for the other Napoleons to “discover” such a talented and warm-hearted writer. Shute writes what could be called "truly adult"-- no, not anything X-rated --but novels with interesting and uplifting plots, realistic romance, history, the perseverance of the human spirit in tragedy, and often featuring older characters. Shute is a definite must for your bookshelves.

Pied Piper was written in 1942 but the novel is set in the summer of 1940 when a retired and grieving English solicitor, John Howard, goes on holiday in the Jura mountains of southern France. Once there, he leaves his "news junkie" habits behind him and concentrates on his walks, his fishing and the warm comfort of his kind hosts. However, the war worsens and Howard desires to be back in his country when it is at "real" war. But in preparing to leave, Howard is approached by an English diplomat who pleads with him to escort his two young children back to safety in England. Reluctant at first, he agrees to do so only to find grievous difficulties, dangers and yet more children who desperately need the help of this old gentleman. I'll say no more so now that you'll have the fullest pleasure in following the adventure of John Howard in Pied Piper for yourself.

Nevil Shute does an outstanding job in bringing alive the courage and compassion of this noble hero (and his young and beautiful accomplice) and he treats with touching power Howard's sacrificial courage in “doing the right thing” of taking care of children. Shute also brings the reader face to face with the shock and sadness of the Nazi invasion of France.

Pied Piper (our favorite novel of Nevil Shute's) makes a great introduction to this terrific writer. The story is a definite page-turner that makes you realize that heroes come in different types, different times ...but always when they're needed. And I'm pretty sure (as are my Notting Hill Napoleon colleagues) that you'll find John Howard one of the most inspiring heroes of all.

Posted by Claire Hartford