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An Old Captivity

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  847 ratings  ·  100 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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Average rating 3.95  · 
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This old yarn of a novel feels as though after a minimum of plotting and the occasional 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 i
Oct 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Another terrific Nevil Shute story. As usual, his old fashioned story-telling captivated me, despite a lot of talk about aeronautics. No author but Shute could pull that off. As usual, the main protagonist is very likable and is asked to take on a difficult task. The ending takes a surprising turn for a Shute novel. I'm still wondering if it worked, but no matter, I enjoyed the ride through icy and mostly cloudy Greenland, Newfoundland and Iceland from the comfort of my home.

Recommended for Shu
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
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
Apr 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Margie by: My mom
Looking for books that I had read in another lifetime, a time far removed from this one, I came across Nevil Shute's, An Old Captivity. I had read it in high school and still have the tattered paperback, price 50 cents. My mom and I used to roam used book stores and Nevil Shute was one of our favorite authors. At that time, he was well known for On the Beach, a futuristic, post-apocalyptic book that takes place after a nuclear holocaust destroys most of the world. It was made into a popular movi ...more
David Dennington
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this, his sixth novel, Nevil Shute describes flying to Greenland via Scotland and Iceland in a seaplane for the purpose of carrying out historical and archeological research. The flying is exciting, well described and seems accurate. I wonder if these flights had in fact been achieved when he wrote this book.
The main characters do in fact wind up qualifying as conquerors of the Atlantic, although it was first achieved from east to west by Beryl Markham in 1936 who flew solo non-stop from Eng
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
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
Jul 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: exploration, flying
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
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. ...more
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!
Sharone Powell
Aug 10, 2020 rated it did not like it
I normally love Nevil Shute's books, but this one was a big miss in my opinion.

To start with, the descriptions of what the pilot needs for the expedition to Greenland are super detailed to the point that you think you're reading a manual or a grocery list.

Then there's the pilot's sleeping problems and the pills that are supposed to help with that problem. (Spoiler alert!!!) But guess what? - they cause more harm than good. At first I thought that Shute is warning us against such pills and that
Aug 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pilot Donald Ross is hired to head an exploration in the Arctic by an Oxford Don whose daughter also accompanied them. In a light plane, the search to trace any evidence of Norwegian migration to Greenland and Newfoundland entailed meticulous planning and much danger, all which take their toll on the pilot.
This work by Nevil Shute was published in 1940 at a time when reading was many an evenings occupation as well as the radio. Today, such moment by moment plot development can be wearying, espe
Ellis Knox
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
This is the fourth book I've read by this author, and every one of them is radically different from all the others, save in one respect: they are all memorable.

This one might be a difficult read for some. The first three-quarters of the book or more concerns the minutiae of a flight to Greenland not long after WWII. I learned more about seaplanes that I should ever want to know. At the same time, in the last quarter of the book, all that has come before shows itself to have been necessary, to be
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
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
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... ...more
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
I just gobbled up one Shute yesterday and one today. *runs to get more*

This story opens with the same type of device seen in the last Shute book I read -- that is, a story told within a story. A psychiatrist traveling to Rome by train experiences travel delay due to inclement weather and strikes up a conversation with a fellow traveler about dreams -- dreams so real they feel as if they replace reality. Don't worry, you don't need to remember any of that because Shute never comes back to the ope
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I loved this book. The story is a good old fashioned adventure story that covers an air trip to the Arctic Circle with many trials and triumphs dotted along the journey. I enjoyed all the technical additions relating to the care of the airplane and the developing character of Alix. She grew from spoiled, rich brat to a strong, independent women who was vital to their mission. The whole story centres on three characters and their travels and their interactions with other minor people. There is a ...more
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
Gudrun Frerichs
Dec 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A walk into the past

I first read this book more than 30 years ago and loved the story. After the new wave of Viking movies/series I wanted to revisit the book. This time around I was struck with the expert description of what is involved in flying a seaplane from
England to Greenland. It conveyed the dangers and challenges of such expedition in the 1930s ... I was in two minds: excited to learn about the process in such detail on one hand, and getting bored with too much repetitive detail about
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
Fiona Akkerman
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
Aug 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I'm not sure that this book worked for me. Neville Shute is a prolific author and I have read quite a few but mostly his WWII stories and, of course, "A Town Like Alice" (which I will have to read again as it was about 30 years ago that I read it). I found his main characters all a bit weak although but when Mr Ross started taking sleeping pills, you knew something was going to go wrong; after all he was a aero pilot and he was on a fairly arduous mission. However, the drugs led to a story withi ...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
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
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
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Valancourt Books: An Old Captivity (1940) by Nevil Shute 1 6 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.

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