Friday, 15 August 2014

'In the Wet' by Nevil Shute

  Nevil Shute

Nevil Shute was an Australian author whose books I read when young - my mother's books. I've come across a few of them recently, and find that I enjoy them as much or more now than when I was fifteen. He was an exceptional author.  He wrote 'On the Beach,' an apocolyptic novel written a long time before they became fashionable. The world is slowly dying from the radiation spreading from World War 3 - the last war. It was made into a film, and so was at least one more of his books -  'A Town Like Alice.' Others of his books are 'The Far Country,' 'Requiem for a Wren,' and 'No Highway.' 

 'In the Wet' was first published 1953.

The wonderful thing about being an author is that your books have a life of their own. The author may die, but the book lives on. This copy was a battered paperback, published by Pan in 1969, once owned by Stanthorpe State High School, and with a sticker saying 30c on the front. I rather like books with a history. It's in my hands now, to be added to my small collection of Nevil Shute books.

'In the Wet' has an unusual plot. It is part set in the Australian Outback, 1950s, and written from the point of view of a Church of England priest.  A dying alcoholic tells him a story of his life - except that his life is in the future, maybe a future life. It is a story of involvement in high affairs, when England has become a socialist state, grey and dreary, and her queen finds her life plagued by hostile politicians. She decides that the thriving former colonies might be a better place to live.  She is Queen of Canada and Queen of Australia as well as Queen of England, something that is often forgotten.

One thing that Shute talks of that is worthy of some real thought - that the system of one man/one vote will not elect the best politicians, rather it is apt to elect the one who makes the most generous promises. He suggests a multiple vote system - that everyone has the one basic vote, but can earn an extra vote for higher education, another vote for living and earning money overseas for a certain period of time, another for a stable marriage and family, etc. Being a serving officer of the church also earned an extra vote. (this book was written before the scandals of the church and its coverups of child sexual abuse by its priests.)  The queen could also award a vote - 'the seventh vote.'  

He has a point about his 'multiple-vote' system - surely a person with some education and intelligence should be able to choose more wisely than a no-hoper who never did anything in his life but get drunk, sire illegitimate children and collect the dole.


There is an author's note at the end. I was impressed by it.

'In the Wet' speaks about things that 'happened' in the 1980s, and was written in the 1950s. The book I have recently completed was set in 2009 to start with, and concluded in 2047. So, like Nevil Shute, I range forward a few decades.

He wrote:

'No man can see into the future, but unless somebody makes a guess from time to time and publishes it to stimulate discussion, it seems to me that we are drifting in the dark, not knowing where we want to go or how to get there.'

and 'Fiction deals with people and their difficulties and, more than that, nobody takes a novelist too seriously. The puppets born of his imagination walk their little stage for our amusement, and if we find that their creator is impertinent, his errors of taste do not sway the world.'

I would have liked to borrow it and apply it to my own book. But I am not in the class of Nevil Shute. It would be just too impertinent.
It is a little eerie,  though. I wrote things in my book that are now happening. I'm not trying to update to take recent events into account - my story is that Shuki has some influence on world politics, and maybe the recent awful events in the Middle East could have been avoided if he'd been more than a fictional character.
Publication date for this book is set at 17th October this year.  




  1. I'm partial to Nevil Shute. Having grown up in New Zealand I've read a few of his books, but hadn't heard of In the Wet. I'll keep an eye out for it.

  2. In the books, New Zealand and Australia were thriving while England was languishing under the weight of too much socialism and over-population. Nevil Shute died in the 60s, but most books are now available online. Good luck.