Pastoral is a charming old fashioned love story set in the midst of WWII. I’m not a romance fan now and rarely read the genre, but this sweet story completely took me off guard. I believe the time and the setting did the trick.
The story is centered on a bomber pilot, Peter Marshall, and signal officer, Gervase Robertson, and their love for each other which slowly blossoms. Their story shows that even in the midst of an ugly war, the warm feelings of love and hope bring much needed fuel to these young airmen. When Gervase initially rejects Peter’s offer, the young officer slackens in his work and blunders as to the near peril of himself and the crew of his plane. It’s when Gervase agrees to take a chance that Peter becomes himself again. Shute shows that it is the hope that keeps the feet of these men who risked their lives on the ground. I liked this different take by Shute, probing into the human feelings of an important section of the war.
Despite the central theme of love, it is also a war story. Shute takes pain to make the reader understands the operational work carried by the bomber planes, and the tension and suspense of all involved, especially the ground staff until the mission is completed and the crew safely arrives. Shute has worked well on these details, especially on Gervase’s emotional strain when Peter’s plane, R for Robert, is airborne until it completes its mission and safely returns to the base. This is my first Nevil Shute novel, and I really liked the way he brought these emotions alive. He writes well, simple yet interesting. Even his descriptions engage the reader’s attention and never tire him.
The title Pastoral one might say is a peculiar choice for this kind of story. But it is not so. The setting is a country setting, for Shute has wanted to show that there is a life beyond the war for these young RAF men and women. Despite the dangers and uncertainties, these men and women try to lead their lives as naturally as possible pursuing their hobbies in their spare time and entertaining their innocent hopes and dreams for a future in peacetime.
I very much enjoyed this novel. It was an interesting story and a comforting read. I felt so connected with the characters. They were real and dear to me. It was with difficulty that I parted from all those energetic youngsters. They took me back to that time of life when I was a youngster like them full of hopes and dreams amidst a civil war.