In keeping with my rereading of favorite books lately, I just finished this one, and I loved it more than ever. Shute is such a great guy. His characters are almost always very ordinary people who just happen to be really good, kind, and amiable. I think most people actually are, really, just we don't hear about them so much. Keith Stewart is no exception. He has to make a trip to a small island in the Pacific, and he hasn't got much money, because his job doesn't pay much. What he does is design and build tiny model engines and machines of various types, and write articles about them for a magazine called The Miniature Mechanic.
But it turns out that strategically placed people all around the world happen to read and enjoy his articles, and make their own model engines to his design. Those who don't happen to know about him already, instantly admire his tiny generating set that he brought along and brings out and runs for people. It sounds sort of silly, but it's all quite normal and believable and real. There actually was such a magazine published in England and the character is modeled after a real man who wrote for that journal.
Keith goes along in that way and manages through difficulties to make it to the island. He's able to achieve his goal for the sake of his little niece. The one part that feels a bit false is the character of the niece. She doesn't seem like a real little girl to me. But the men, the airplanes, boats, sailing, flying, and building of the models is all completely true to life. I love that Nevil Shute will never lead me astray on any such things. You can count on him completely in that regard.
Read today the sexism and racism pops out, showing us how much things have changed for the better since the time when this was written. Shute was quite progressive for his time, I think. "I would say he is a Jew, and a very good one", "They had no other choice if they wanted to keep a man in charge of the plant", some of his phrases bring me up short. I suppose one could read them today as patronizing. But for his time he's quite open minded and accepting of all sorts of people. I think he would have been a great person to know. I wish I had met him, but he was my grandparents age, or older, and he died not long after I was born. Still I can't think of any author I'd like more to have as a friend.
Up next: The Legacy