Gerald's Reviews > An Old Captivity

An Old Captivity by Nevil Shute
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's review
Sep 12, 12

bookshelves: author-shute, owned, favorites, 2012, genre-adventure, genre-fiction, theme-aviation
Read on September 12, 2012

I returned once again to one of my favorite authors, Nevil Shute. Although I’d read this book before, at least 10 years ago or more, I eagerly got into it for this second reading. Donald Ross is a Scotsman who was raised by his aunt following the death of his parents. Funds were not available to send him to Oxford when it was his time to go to college. Instead he goes into the British Royal Air Force, becoming a very good pilot during his five-year period of service. After this he follows the jobs available to Canada performing innumerable seaplane jobs into the Canadian wilderness – flying in supplies, equipment, etc., for trappers, prospectors, hunting parties, and other with interests of varying sorts in northeast Canada. He became most accomplished in dealing with all the considerable factors that have to be taken into account in flying into such conditions, especially what it takes to keeping a seaplane properly maintained and flyable there.

The terrible economic conditions of the 1930’s did not spare Canada. He soon found himself without a job and heading back to Scotland where conditions were marginally better. He applied for numerous flying jobs with no luck, then contacted a friend named Mr. Clarke at the Guild of Air Pilots about job possibilities indicating that he was getting desperate. After a couple of weeks, Mr. Clarke informed him of possible employment for an archeology Professor Lockwood at Oxford. He immediately set out to apply for the job. The professor had discovered information that convinced him there had been early Celtic explorers who had reached Greenland in about the 10th century. He proposed to make an expedition, with the backing of his very successful brother, to the ruins of an ancient settlement named Brattalid on the southwest tip of Greenland to begin an archeological dig and, more importantly, to make a photographic mapping survey of the entire area during his summer break from classes. He was seeking to employ a pilot for that purpose.

Donald knew that he had the expertise needed for this job and agreed to accept it when offered in spite of the provision that the professor’s daughter would be an additional passenger. She was quite set against her father going due to his age and tried to get Donald to convince him that he should not do it. When all was settled, the expedition did get underway as planned with the pilot, the professor, and his daughter. They flew from Southampton, England, to their expedition base at Julianehaab, Greenland via Invergordon, Scotland; Reykjavik, Iceland; Angmagsalik, Greenland; and a very small nameless Eskimo village between Angmagsalik and Julianehaab where they had to make a weather-necessitated unplanned stop. Along the way they had to contend with both anticipated and unanticipated conditions and emergencies including having to land in ice fields, frequent very low-level fog conditions, a broken leg of a planned fourth member of the expedition who was to meet then by ship in Julianehaab.

This is a very entertaining book as are all of Nevil Shute’s novels. I recommend it quite highly to those who enjoy a good adventure tale.

[Book 70 of revised 2012 target 80 (Jan-10; Feb-11; Mar-9; Apr-8; May-7; Jun-8; Jul-7; Aug-9; Sep-1)]

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