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Requiem for a Wren

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  1,072 Ratings  ·  109 Reviews
Requiem for a Wren (U.S. title The Breaking Wave) is one of Nevil Shute's most poignant and psychologically suspenseful novels, set in the years just after World War II.

Sidelined by a wartime injury, fighter pilot Alan Duncan reluctantly returns to his parents' remote sheep station in Australia to take the place of his brother Bill, who died a hero in the war. But his home
Paperback, 285 pages
Published July 1st 2002 by House of Stratus (first published 1955)
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The English Patient by Michael OndaatjeRequiem for a Wren by Nevil ShuteInto The Unknown by Lorna PeelMaisie Dobbs by Jacqueline WinspearBird's Eye View by Elinor Florence
Women During War
2nd out of 49 books — 17 voters
A Town Like Alice by Nevil ShuteThe Thorn Birds by Colleen McCulloughIn a Sunburned Country by Bill BrysonOn the Beach by Nevil ShutePicnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
Books Set in Australia
48th out of 545 books — 158 voters

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Community Reviews

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Apr 23, 2009 Meryl rated it really liked it
The thing that keeps me coming back to Shute--and has made him one of my favorites--is his wonderful leading female characters. They're all different enough to make them worth reading, but still similar--smart, sensible, short, plucky. From Moira Davidson facing the end of the world (On the Beach) to Jean Paget on a Malaysian death march (A Town Like Alice) they're the kind of girls that can get through anything, and they do it in the way that I would hope that I would, were I in the ...more
May 09, 2011 Manny rated it liked it
I'm trying to guess how many books I've read which in one way or another are about the Second World War. I've read a couple just in the last month, Wilcox's Japan's Secret War and Linebarger's Psychological Warfare . As usual, I was gripped by two contradictory emotions: horror and fascination. I think most people have a similar reaction. The war was monstrous and appalling, but it was also the most exciting, extraordinary period in human history. New techniques, new ideas, new ways of thinki ...more
Nov 24, 2014 Cateline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Requiem For A Wren by Nevil Shute

Shute reveals the end at the beginning, but only part of it, the devastating part. A young woman's suicide that seemingly has no rhyme or reason starts the returning home Aussie pilot on a journey through his past. The attention to detail is fantastic and the reader learns much about the nitty gritty of maintaining the gunnery parts of British WWII ships. I had no idea that there was such a thing as Ordinance Wrens in the War. They were an integral part of the W
Jan 09, 2014 Peter rated it it was amazing
Re-reading is something I avoid, along with watching movies or TV shows a second time. Life's too short for repeats...well, in most cases. This is such a poignant, human novel that it almost demands re-reading. Shute's writing is exactly my cup of tea. There's always a cracking story and the life - and death - of Leading Wren Janet Prentice is a heart-breaker. With D-Day and the aftermath of WW2 as a back-drop Shute's in his real comfort zone. If you think the descriptions of the build-up to the ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Nostalgic needs nabbed Nevil by the novelistic 'nads and gnawed them to nubbins.

The only reason I read this all the way to the end was because I wanted to know how Janet Prentice ended up at Coombargana. I'm giving it two stars rather than one because Shute demonstrates very well how people who have served in a great war are at loose ends when the war is over. They find themselves wishing for another war so their lives can once again have meaning and camaraderie. Can't say I'd recommend the boo
Jul 25, 2015 Zora rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The convoluted narrative structure didn't do the tale any favors here, and it often made no logical sense. (How could the narrator have known the Wren never spoke of X or had a sleepless night, when none of his informants or the diary told him so?) In a sense, it's a tale of a female British WW II combatant suffering from PTSD...and of the men who loved her. But as with Pied Piper, Shutes seems to be hanging on to a Victorian novel structure, with a framing narrative device that isn't necessary. ...more
Apr 30, 2015 Robin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My review is on my book blog: https://afondnessforreading.wordpress...
Ralph Sayle
Jul 09, 2014 Ralph Sayle rated it it was amazing
Great book.

I was touristing in England a couple of decades ago and visited Bucklers Hard. Their small museum had a feature about Neville Shute's Requiem for a Wren but I had no idea what the display was about.

A day or so later I was in Plymouth and walked into a used bookshop near Sutton Harbour. First book I spotted was Requiem for a Wren! I was fated to buy the book.

Glorious read and the first "war book" that spoke of the postwar stresses... not PTSD but "war is over! what shall I do now" stre
Jan 05, 2013 Sally rated it really liked it
Nevil Shute has such an interesting way of writing and once again in this book I felt that I was discovering how the character thought and felt as he muddled his way through life. The story is fascinating in its description of life before and after the WW2 in England and how those involved in the forces were left puzzled and directionless in this new world of peace. Nevil also describes the difficulty people had in finding those who had once been close in a narrative that is a bit like a tv crim ...more
Michael David
May 05, 2016 Michael David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book isn't a transcendent masterpiece. It's actually a soft 5. But it has just enough to put it through towards my arbitrary five-star ratings. It's not perfect: it just has to be a little bit better than great, and Requiem for a Wren is probably a millimeter from that denotation. To me, that's good enough.

I think Nevil Shute must have read Faulkner in his lifetime, because it sounds close to Faulkner's then-recently released quasi-novel, Requiem for a Nun. Instead of telling part of the no
Apr 25, 2016 Al rated it really liked it
Four and a half stars. Shute's work almost always involves decent people, usually young, who begin in difficult circumstances and through diligence and decency, emerge successful. Frequently, the stories involve romance. Requiem For a Wren, however, turns that theme on its head, and beautifully develops several of Shute's other favorite themes at the same time. One is the devastating effect of war, which he examines through its effect on the participants (those who survive, that is). The main c ...more
Jeremy Neal
Apr 09, 2015 Jeremy Neal rated it really liked it
Well, it's another Shute. He's so good and underrrated that you can't fall off. Requiem for a Wren is another great read; which I enjoyed more than Round the Bend (which Shute considered his best work) but less than A Town Like Alice, and my (so far) favourite On the Beach. In every case though, he writes so well that you cannot help but admire it.

In many ways you envy his characters. They're always so straighforward and untwisted that you cannot imagine them having anything but contented lives.
Dave Morris
Jan 06, 2015 Dave Morris rated it really liked it
I didn't find this terribly gripping at the start, and that surprised me. Recently I was reading Shute's autobiography; I had intended to skim-read, only to give that idea up as Shute is incapable of writing a boring paragraph. But then I struggled through the first few pages of this one. Now, I don't demand that novels start with a bang or a high-concept hook (what are we, children?) but the first chapter had a little too much of the Mary Shelley school of fiction-by-travelogue for my taste. We ...more
Max Read
Jul 25, 2014 Max Read rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A World War II Drama and love story

“Nevil Shute” was the pen name for Nevil Shute Norway author of “The Breaking Wave”. The novel was originally entitled “Requiem for a Wren” and was an Australian book release published about 1955. Nevil Shute was born in London in 1899 and died in Melbourne Australia in 1960. He had written approximately 25 various works with aviation a backdrop for many of the themes. The most common theme in Shute's novels is the dignity of work spanning all classes or the br
Aug 04, 2014 Alistair rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well this was a discovery .
I bought it because it had a dog on the cover and was about a personal tragedy set in WW11 . I was further pleased to find whilst reading it that it had an Oxford connection and also part of the war action was set in Lymington .
It starts off with a suicide and works backwards as the main character Alan Duncan himself recovering from his war wounds unravels the background of the young woman who ends it all at his parents farm in Australia .
Nevil Shute is your old fas
Catherine Davison
I'm giving this five stars thinking of the time in which it was written. It has a lot slower pace than more contemporary novels and Shute does go into so much detail about naval ships, guns and carrier craft that I was constantly looking up Wikipedia to understand what he was talking about. I felt like I was in an episode of Foyle's War, the way the characters spoke and behaved, so polite and so focused on doing one's duty for the mother country. As the family sheep station is set in the Western ...more
Girl with her Head in a Book
Review originally published here:

Nevil Shute is one of those authors that I know little of but who I keep hearing about. He wrote A Town Like Alice amongst others but the first book of his that I happened to find in the library was Requiem For A Wren and so here we are. Written in the 1950s, this is a melancholic reflection on life as a World War Two survivor, with very little in the way of joy and much to mourn. It lingers in the mind as an unhappy novel
Martina Hlúbiková
May 21, 2016 Martina Hlúbiková rated it liked it
Tgis was my first book from Shute, but browsing the reviews I saw he is quite popular. My first impression of this novel was that it's a crime story. Though it is not, it's a war book and I've read quite some of thos, but this is the first one where leading character fighting in war is a woman. The story is simple about two brothers, Australians, who are very fond of each other. Requiem for a Wren starts from the end of story, when Alan is after long years coming back to Coombargana in Australia ...more
Suzanne Auckerman
Jun 03, 2016 Suzanne Auckerman rated it really liked it
Nevil Shute is one of my favorite authors, was British and emigrated to Australia in 1950. His books are mainly set in WWII and often tell of Australian soldiers efforts in the war. This book (published in America as The Breaking Wave) tells the story of a British Wren, which I did not know anything about.

From Wikipedia: The Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS; popularly and officially known as the Wrens) was the women's branch of the United Kingdom's Royal Navy. First formed in 1917 for the Firs
Jul 10, 2007 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of Alan Duncan begins with his homecoming to Coombargana, a sheep farming station in the Western District of Australia. On the day before his return, the trusted parlor maid on the station, of whom his parents were very fond, died in her room unexpectedly; coincidence?
May 18, 2015 Pamela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is difficult to rate. It started out as a 3-star just because Shute is such a good writer. Then, during all the naval technical stuff, it dropped to 2-stars. It stayed at 2-stars while Alan was telling how he talked to those who knew Janice--too much tell and not enough show. When he got to the diaries, it bumped back up to 3-stars.

And then came the last few pages and especially the very end. Oh my goodness! That nailed 4-stars for sure. As a matter of fact, the entire book could have
Andrew McClarnon
Such a sad story, an example of a stiff upper lip tragedy. The blurb described it as a romance, but it's more impersonal than that - there's the tale of Janet and Bill, we are told they are in love, but that is not demonstrated - rather we have a lot of interesting stuff about the preparations for D-Day, both in the Wrens, and special forces. Uncovering this through various sources some years in the future we have Alan, war hero, but also rather detached from life. As we go, we learn more about ...more
Feb 02, 2008 Megan rated it really liked it
This was slow to build, but poignant in the end. Another WWII narrative of the individual impact of war. Nevil Shute is a writer I would definitely recommend.
Aug 28, 2015 Katie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really love Nevil Shute. This isn't some wildly romantic story with a fairytale ending, in fact, the story begins with a suicide.

I'm not a huge fan of stories without a "hollywood" ending (because I believe in happy endings), but I liked this one. It seemed real, not all our lives feel like happy endings are around the corner and it gives you something to reflect on in your day to day interactions with the people around you...perhaps there is someone out there who is hurting, who needs your fr
Mike Harper
Sep 07, 2013 Mike Harper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Do you like tear-jerkers? If yes, read this. But don't listen to it. Read it. Go to your library and get it.
Sep 05, 2014 Lisa rated it really liked it
Shelves: c20th, britain
In 1985-86 I read my way through every Nevil Shute I could get my hands on!
Aug 20, 2015 Linda rated it really liked it
Several of Shute’s novels are a story-within-a-story, and this one is told the same way. Alan Duncan, a fighter pilot in World War II, returns home to his parents’ sheep farm in Australia on the day that the maid in the house commits suicide. No one in the family knows the true identity of the maid or anything about her background, but Alan finds a suitcase containing her diary and letters, and discovers that he has known the woman in the past. Alan goes on to piece together the rest of her sto ...more
Sarah Sammis
Aug 18, 2012 Sarah Sammis marked it as to-read
Shelves: borrowed, exwishlist
Aka The Breaking wave
Larry Piper
Mar 15, 2016 Larry Piper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Time to cue the old Vera Lynn recordings. We're talking England during World War II and its aftermath. Good stuff. I'm a bit of an Anglophile and love immersing myself into the British experience from the 30s through the 50s. So, now you understand the basic setting and have your background music cued up, on to the plot sketch.

First, what's a Wren? Well, the WRNS were the Woman's Royal Naval Service, but its members were generally called the wrens, like the birds. I wonder if "bird" was a slang
Jul 05, 2015 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, australia, wwii
Alan Duncan had been a fighter pilot in WWII prior to his injury. After the war, he completes his law degree from Oxford and then returns home to Australia to help his aging parents manage their ranch. The day he arrives home he learns that the parlormaid who had been there for the last year had died that morning - an apparent suicide or horrible accident. There seems to be absolutely no information about who she was and his parents are at a loss, both from the help and with what to tell the au ...more
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Nevil Shute Norway was a popular British novelist and a successful aeronautical engineer.

He used Nevil Shute as his pen name, and his full name in his engineering career, in order to protect his engineering career from any potential negative publicity in connection with his novels.

He lived in Australia for the ten years before his death.
More about Nevil Shute...

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“When you and I are dead, and all the rest of us who served in the last war, in all the countries,” she said, “there’ll be a chance of world peace. Not till then.” 0 likes
“It was incongruous at Coombargana. In a great city such things happen now and then, where people are too strained and hurried to pay much attention to the griefs of others, but in a small rural community like ours, led by wise and tolerant people such as my father and mother, staffed by good types culled and weeded out over the years, such secret, catastrophic griefs do not occur. Troubles at Coombargana had always been small troubles in my lifetime.” 0 likes
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