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An Old Captivity

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  650 ratings  ·  75 reviews
Young pilot Donald Ross has little in common with the Oxford archaeologist who has employed him on an expedition to the Arctic—and still less with his beautiful but stubborn daughter, Alix. But once the three of them reach the treacherous shores of Greenland, in search of the ruins of early Viking settlements, their destinies are inextricably bound by the events that unfol ...more
Paperback, 302 pages
Published July 1st 2002 by House of Stratus (first published 1940)
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This old yarn of a novel feels as though after a minimum of plotting and the occasion assisting sip of whisky and soda the author just typed and typed until the book was done.

It opens with the framing device of a man listening to another man's story. Logically the point of view in the rest of the book until we reach the frame again should be the storytellers - but it isn't (at least not consistently). Slightly oddly the end of the story doesn't match up with the storytellers situation in the int
Feb 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
[9/10] Nevil Shute does his storytelling trick once again. This is a straightforward tale of an archeological expedition to Greenland sometime between two world wars, three people in a small plane against a hostile environment even in the months os summer. And the story of two people from wildly different backgrounds coming to understand and care for each other.

The author knows his stuff when it comes to early aviation and the level of detail both in the preparation of the journey and in the act
An Old Captivity is rather hard to pin down, in terms of genre. It's clumsy in places, too -- the frame story is okay to begin with, but then... doesn't really do anything. It doesn't match up properly with the rest of the story. That didn't bother me too much, though. I got really absorbed in all the concrete details of this book: the plane, Ross' efforts to get ready for the trip, his worries, his sleeplessness... the slow growing of understanding between him and Alix. Even the precise geograp ...more
Feb 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book more than any I’ve read this year. I don't think have the ability explain why I like the book as much as I do. Perhaps it is Shute himself I like. To date I’ve read six of his books and all have been fantastic. Nevil Shute may simply be my favorite author. Shute writes about the hidden hero that can be found in everyday people. He gives us stories about ordinary men and women facing adversity. For the most part his characters rise to the occasion, but he shows us defeat as we ...more
Jul 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: flying, exploration
Nevil Shute's style will probably not please the modern reader much, and that is unfortunate. His love of detail and the pains he goes to make sure of what he is stating are characteristics that I enjoy in his texts. Sometimes, he goes to an almost ridiculous extent to flesh out the reality of his background, when it probably would not be missed. Yet just as he does this, you can see him entering a truly fictional world in which, whoops, his characters suddenly do resemble real people and his na ...more
Sep 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Having recently read a series of disappointing, or just more challenging books, picking up another Nevil Shute novel was the reading equivalent of (or ideal compliment to) curling up in a favorite chair with tea and good music - at once calming and invigorating, familiar and new. A perfect relaxation read.

This again features his great characters - earnest without being stiff, and good but not prim. An aging Oxford don wants to survey an area of Greenland for his archeological research. He knows
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
It’s so nice to spend a few days immersed in another decent and kind world created by Nevil Shute!
Mar 28, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: sffantasy
I'm not even sure I should call this fantasy, but whatever, my shelves don't claim to be an exhaustive list of categories. Ride-along time-travel In A Dream is SF for people who don't want to write SF; I probably shouldn't comment until I've read more Shute, but I get the feeling he thought SF had to have a certain plausible deniability and be separated hygienically by framing narratives in order to be respectable. (There's a really weird half of a framing narrative right at the beginning with a ...more
Elisabeth van Breda
Feb 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
At first you may think it is boring but reading on you're brilliantly captivated in the story of a modern pilot who becomes an illness while everybody depends on him. During his illness he hallucinates he was in a previous life. All in all it makes you wonder...
wendy c
Sep 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really enjoy Nevil Shute's books. Yes, some have dated a bit, but this writers love for his fellow man, his excellent writing, and his perception has always delighted me. This is a paranormal romance in it's way.
Nicholas Whyte
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it

A fascinating book by Shute. His usual competent engineer hero is tasked with organising an archaeologist's air photography mission to Greenland, sponsored by the archaeologist's rich elder brother, and to his dismay accompanied by the archaeologist's daughter. The planning and implementation of the expedition are lovingly detailed; the year is roughly 1937 (the book was published in 1940, but there is no mention of impending war).

And then three quarter
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Slow and altogether lacking substance. The characters mostly sleep, eat and fly in a plane for several hours at a time, while checking on weather changes. I was anticipating the dream-sequence, since I'd understood it to be the feature of the book, but I was disappointed. It filled one chapter, despite being the most colourful and interesting part, and not at all detailed or suspenseful. I foresaw the meek little plot twist at the end, and so nothing surprised or delighted me about this story. I ...more
Larry Piper
Donald Ross is a young man who learned flying in the military, then honed his craft flying about Canada, learning the intricacies of flying over the water and in remote places. He gets a job with an archeologist, Mr. Lockwood, who wants to investigate the possibility of Celtic settlements on Greenland. The operation is to be financed by Lockwood's rich, industrialist brother. There's a clinker, however, it seems that Lockwood's frumpy and prickly daughter, Alix, is to join the expedition. To Ros ...more
Circul Wyrd
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Escapist fantasy? Pretty much, yeah. Read it again in a second? Ummm, I just need to put it down, and then I can answer. Probably not for anyone, but synopsis is pilot with insomnia gets sent on an expedition to Greenland. He's taking meds for his insomnia. He has weird dreams. Eventually he has difficulty separating the dream from the reality. He has a beautiful coworker. Incidentally, his dreams are about the long ago past, and his coworker is also there. An academic who quizzes him about his ...more
Liz Barlow
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have always been a fan of Neville Shute. He is an old style story teller. Protagonists are always competent, kind, responsible, technical men with a standard for high ethical and moral conduct. And these guys always, in their quiet and non deliberate way, manage to woo the socks the gal. And, there is always a very off beat twist in the plot that holds you to the end despite all the tedious technical detail he sometimes gets bogs down with. I give it 5 stars when it probably only warrants 3.5 ...more
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh Nevil Shute captivated me decades ago.....this is reminiscent of 'In The Wet'
It's dated for sure by the technology, the manners (dressing for dinner!) and the mores but the stories are so well written that it doesn't matter.
Neither the stories nor the characters are glamorous but they're all decent, reliable and thoroughly likeable.
There's always love and plenty of practical detail in equal measure. After reading one of his books I always feel that I too could moor a sea plane, fly over moun
Andrew McClarnon
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a strange combination of the practical and the ethereal. A novel that takes in aero engine maintenance and a haunting dream of ancient exploration. Once again NS's writing is both simple and evocative, the plot interesting from the historical and geographical perspectives, while the characters seem so, well, out of time. One thing that always seems to stand out in his work is a very old fashioned attitude to women. A book that will stay with me, if only trying to work out what the title ...more
Apr 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an enjoyable story. The language was a bit dated, but I enjoyed the flow of the book in general and the characters were believable and authentic for that time and place. I felt like the story needed an exciting episode, like a crises to get your full attention; especially in the second part of the book to help you feel more connected and excited with the storyline, it was a bit too slow in parts. The dream twist was ok, but slightly predictable. Overall this was a reasonable read that k ...more
At heart, it's a ghost story in the vein of Tales From the Crypt, which I rather enjoy as a genre. But to get to the ghost story you have to read through a hundred some-odd pages of Victorian sensibilities and early 1900's aeronautical mechanics.

That said, it is oddly engaging so getting through those early pages is not painful. Still, at the end I found myself wondering if the title was referencing the plot line or the process of reading the book; being captive to it, waiting for something to h
Kevin Findley
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, nevil-shute
Around page 50, the book kicked itself into third and didn't let up for about a hundred pages. Despite that, the ending felt like a letdown. The resolution was imperfect at best and the energy just felt drained about ten pages before the actual finish.

Still, a poor ending to a Shute book is only by comparison to his other works. Tracking down a copy is well worth your time and effort, so ...

Read it!
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another wonderful book by Nevil Shute! I really enjoy the way he relays a historical account but mixes fiction through it and comes up with a really good read. This book was so unique in the way he told the story of Leif, Haki, and Hekja. The descriptions of the expedition were very well done and made it easy to visualize what air travel was like all those years ago...the difficulties and struggles with fueling and communications that today’s pilots don’t have to deal with.
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Book!

I don't want to give away the plot. Do we love the same person over and over? Can some of us remember more than others? See what you think as you read this wonderful work of fiction that is based on archaeological research.
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jul 16, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book. It was interesting learning about seaplanes. There is always an element of mystery to Shute’s stories. I liked the development of Alix’s character.
Apr 26, 2018 rated it liked it
A very engaging tale about a Greenland expedition in the thirties. Two thirds Indian Jones...and then it gets a good way. For reasons I will not explain, a must read for Cotuit friends.
This was my third reading of this most entertaining novel. As you might expect, I thoroughly enjoyed it and very much recommend it to other interested readers. I will reuse my 2012 review (below) as my review for this reading.


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
Mike Harper
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I generally reserve five stars for books I'd recommend unreservedly to any well-read adult. This is an exception. The story here is old-fashioned and predictable, the characters not entirely convincing, and the writing is straightforward rather than brilliant. So why five stars?
To start with, the story is told with precisely the right amount of detail. The reader is brought along on a hazardous voyage to the arctic in a 1930-vintage seaplane, and Ross, the central character, overcomes obstacle a
Dec 14, 2013 rated it liked it
A man meets Donald Ross on a train which has been stopped in a remote place because of a train off the rails. Ross tells his story while they wait. Ross grew up in Scotland with his aunt who was a teacher. He went into the Royal Air Force, and then to Canada to fly float planes in remote northern areas. When that job ended he went back to Scotland and spent some time looking for a job. He hears from a friend about a job with Mr. Lockwood at Oxford for a photographic expedition to Greenland. Lock ...more
Tom Richards
Mar 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a good old-fashioned yarn of a story and one of my favorites by Nevil Shute. Today, elements of his tale would be categorized (in part) as magical realism. When he wrote it, the story would invariably be known as simple fiction.

I've reread this countless times due to its many compelling layers. Who wouldn't want to fly with an intrepid pilot as he journeys to Greenland, back in the day when such a trip was a costly, dangerous affair? Who wouldn't want to become caught up in local Native
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Valancourt Books: An Old Captivity (1940) by Nevil Shute 1 5 Jan 14, 2015 01:24PM  
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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.