Pied Piper

Pied Piper

by Nevil Shute

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Overview

It is the summer of 1940 and in Europe the time of Blitzkreig. John Howard, a 70-year-old Englishman vacationing in France, cuts shorts his tour and heads for home. He agrees to take two children with him.

But war closes in. Trains fail, roads clog with refugees. And if things were not difficult enough, other children join in Howard's little band. At last they reach the coast and find not deliverance but desperation. The old Englishman's greatest test lies ahead of him.

"Extraordinary and gripping...a literary bull's eye." (The Philadelphia Record)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780884113232
Publisher: Amereon, Limited
Publication date: 06/01/1982
Pages: 314

About the Author

Nevil Shute Norway was born in 1899 in Ealing, London. He studied Engineering Science at Balliol College, Oxford. Following his childhood passion, he entered the fledgling aircraft industry as an aeronautical engineer working to develop airships and, later, airplanes. In his spare time he began writing and he published his first novel, Marazan, in 1926, using the name Nevil Shute to protect his engineering career. In 1931 he married Frances Mary Heaton and they had two daughters. During the Second World War he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve where he worked on developing secret weapons. After the war he continued to write and settled in Australia where he lived until his death in 1960. His most celebrated novels include Pied Piper (1942), A Town Like Alice (1950), and On the Beach (1957).

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

His name is John Sidney Hoard, and he is a member of my club in London. I came in for dinner that night at about eight o'clock, tired after a long day of conferences about my aspect of the war. He was just entering the club ahead of me, a tall and rather emaciated man of about seventy, a little unsteady on his feet. He tripped over the door mat as he went in and stumbled forward; the hall porter jumped out and caught him by the elbow.
 
He peered down at the mat and poked it with his umbrella. 'Damned thing caught my toe,' he said. 'Thank you Peters. Getting old, I suppose.'
 
The man smiled. 'Several of the gentleman have caught their foot there recently, sir' he said. 'I was speaking to the Steward about it only the other day.'
 
The old man said: 'Well, speak to him again and go on speaking till he has it put right. One of these days you'll have me falling dead at your feet. You wouldn't like that to happen—eh?' He smiled quizzically.
 
The porter said: 'No, sir, we shouldn't like that to happen.'
 
'I should think not. Not the sort of thing one wants to see happen in a club. I don't want to die on a doormat. And I don't want to die in a lavatory, either. Remember the time that Colonel Macpherson died in the lavatory, Peters?'
 
'I do sir. That was very distressing.'
 
'Yes.' He was silent for a moment. Then he said: 'Well, I don't want to die that way, either. See he gets that mat put right. Tell him I said so.'
 
'Very good, sir.'
 
The old man moved away. I had been waiting behind him while all this was going on because the porter had my letters. He gave them to me at the wicket, and I looked them through. 'Who was that?' I asked idly.
 
He said: 'That was Mr. Howard, sir.'
 
'He seemed to be very much concerned about his latter end.'
 
The porter did not smile. 'Yes, sir. Many of the gentlemen talk in that way as they get on. Mr. Howard has been a member here for a great many years.'
 
I said more courteously: 'Has he? I don't remember seeing him about.'
 
The man said: 'He has been abroad for the last few months, I think, sir. But he seems to have aged a great deal since he came back. Getting rather frail now, I'm afraid.'
 
I turned away. 'This bloody war is hard on men of his age,' I said.
 
'Yes, sir. That's very true.'
 
I went into the club, slung my gas-mask on to a peg, unbuckled my revolver-belt and hung it up, and crowned the lot with my cap. I strolled over to the tape and studied the latest news. It was neither good nor bad. Our Air Force was still knocking the hell out of Ruhr; Rumania was still desperately bickering with her neighbours. The news was as it had been for three months, since France was overrun.
 
I went in and had my dinner. Howard was already in the dining-room; apart from us the room was very nearly empty. He had a waiter serving him who was very nearly as old as he was himself, and as he ate his dinner the waiter stood beside his table and chatted to him. I could hardly help overhearing the subject of their conversation. They were talking about cricket, re-living the Test Matches of 1925.
 
Because I was eating alone I finished before Howard, and went up to my bill at the desk. I said to the cashier: 'The waiter over there—what's his name?'
 
'Jackson, sir?'
 
'That's right. How long has he been here?'
 
'Oh, he's been here a long time. All his life, you might say. Eighteen ninety-five or ninety-six he come here, I believe.'
 
'That's a very long time.'
 
The man smiled as he gave me my change. 'It is, sir. But Porson—he's been here longer than that.'
 
I went upstairs to the smoking-room and stopped before a table littered with periodicals. With idle interest I turned over a printed list of members. Howard, I saw, had joined the club in 1896. Master and man, then, had been rubbing shoulders all their lives.
 
I took a couple of illustrated weeklies, and ordered coffee. Then I crossed the room to where the two most comfortable chairs in my club stand side by side, and prepared to spend an hour of idleness before returning to my flat. In a few minutes there was a step beside me and Howard lowered his long body into the other chair. A boy, unasked, brought him coffee and brandy.
 
Presently he spoke. He said quietly: 'It really is a most extraordinary thing that you can't get a decent cup of coffee in this country. Even in a club like this they can't make coffee.'
 
I laid down my paper. If the old man wanted to talk to me, I had no great objection. All day I had been working with my eyes in my old-fashioned office, reading reports and writing dockets. It would be good to take off my spectacles for a little time and un-focus my eyes. I was very tired.
 
I felt in my pocket for my spectacle-case. I said: 'A chap who deals in coffee once told me that ground coffee won't keep in our climate. It's the humidity, or something.'
 
'Ground coffee goes off in any climate,' he said dogmatically. 'You never get a proper cup of coffee if you buy it like that. You have to buy the beans and grind it just before you make it. But that's what they won't do.'
 
He went on talking about coffee and chicory and things like that for a time. Then, by natural association, we talked about the brandy. He approved of the club brandy. 'I used to have an interest in a wine business,' he said. 'A great many years ago, in Exeter. But I disposed of it soon after the last war.'
 
I gathered that he was a member of the Wine Committee of the club. I said: 'It must be rather interesting to run a business like that.'

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Pied Piper 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
mju More than 1 year ago
This is vintage Nevil Shute. A great story with entertaining characters. You won't want to stop reading until you have finished,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love shute, and this is a great one.
yourotherleft on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pied Piper starts out innocently enough when elderly John Sidney Howard decides to take a fishing holiday to Jura in France in an attempt to distract himself from the recent death of his son, a pilot in the RAF. Unfortunately, his timing in taking such a trip is uncommonly bad considering that he chooses to take this outing during early World War II when Germany is poised to invade France. As the threat draws closer, Howard obliviously enjoys the peace and fishing that the tiny hamlet of Cidoton has to offer. While there, he makes the acquaintance of an English woman and her husband, an officer of the League of Nations working in nearby Switzerland, as well as their two small children. Before long, the German threat can no longer be ignored, and Howard knows that he must make for England before France is overtaken. In fear, the two parents plea with Howard to take their two children, Ronald and Sheila, to stay with relatives in England while they remain to face whatever may come. Howard agrees, and thus begins their dangerous and unusual journey. When Sheila falls ill and delays their departure, Howard finds himself escorting the children across a country fraught with danger and facing the distinct possibility that it may just be impossible to get out. Pied Piper is such a rich story. Howard starts out with two children and a certitude that surely France couldn't be taken and ultimately ends up desperately fleeing occupied France largely on foot with a growing troop of lost children. Really, it's brilliant Shute's occupied France filled with German soldiers busy making war and conquering juxtaposed with Howard and seven children under the age of eleven, children who have hardly the faintest idea of the danger of what's going on. Shute plays off their innocence against one of the darkest times in history as the children plea to see the tanks and the planes, even at their peril, happily swim in a creek as the Germans populate the countryside, and keep enquiring as to whether they will soon be riding the train with the sleeper car when, for British children, riding in a train at all could be perilous.The stolid, grey-faced Germans looked on mirthlessly, uncomprehending. For the first time in their lives they were seeing foreigners, displaying the crushing might and power of their mighty land. It confused them and perplexed them that their prisoners should be so flippant as to play games with their children in the corridor outside the very office of the Gestapo. It found the soft spot in the armour of their pride; they felt an insult which could not be properly defined. This was not what they had understood when their Fuhrer had last spoken from the Sport-Palast. This victor was not as they had thought it would be.As the old man traverses France in search of the best or, really, any way out, the children he meets and takes under his wing all have their own heart-rending stories and reactions to their situations that cast a different sort of light on the events of World War II. Along the way, Howard not only manages to fill up the void of his own history by attempting to escort the future out of a war zone, but also is re-acquainted with someone who will ultimately help him reconcile his own feelings about the loss of his son.Pied Piper is a beautiful story with so many dimensions that I couldn't hope to chronicle here, nor would I want to, and risk ruining the experience of this story for others. It deals with so many aspects of World War II and occupied France that I'd hardly considered before and all in a story that's so engrossing that you barely realize the power of its insight until after you've nearly passed it by.
Prop2gether on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This story became a fabulous movie starring Monty Wooley as the shepherd with an unwanted group of children. I read the book because I loved the film, and I was not disappointed.
TadAD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Shute takes the Pied Piper folk tale and turns it into a story of an old British gentleman who is caught in France at the onset of the German invasion during World War II. Not only must he try to get back to England before being captured by the invaders, but he acquires an ever-growing group of children whose safety becomes his responsibility.I have always enjoyed Shute's writing. I find it quietly humorous, colorful, full of adventure when called for and, most of all, populated with richly-drawn characters—he's simply a born story teller. Of those books I've read, this is one of his best: John Howard is a wonderful character and his kindliness, courage and worries about the situation had me from the start. Though he published this in 1942, Shute resisted any temptation to fill this with tirades and was content to provide a simple, heart-warming, slightly poignant, and completely satisfying story.
JGoto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nevil Shute's Pied Piper is the story of an old man and his attempt to bring several small children out of Occuppied France during World War Two. It was a decent read, but I have two complaints. First, I wish a map had been included in the book. His route and changes to it are mentioned again and again throughout the book, but they had little meaning for me. The second concerns Shute's use of French. Perhaps this was the writing style of the day, but it is a habit I find pretentious at best. Shute tells us that all of the characters are speaking French, and then when an important part in the conversation comes up (the punch-line, so to speak) he switches to actually using French for emphasis. Of course, that leaves some readers (like me)clueless as to what was said. Very irritating, needless to say. Aside from that Pied Piper was a good story. I hear a movie was made from it. I'd like to see it - it sounds like the perfect plot for a riviting movie.
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I let this work sit quietly on my shelf for far too long. This quiet story of an elderly English man, unwittingly sucked into the chaos of WWII and the lives of numerous children, is both powerful and touching. Shute's writing is understated and unique, but the simple beauty of his language and scenes is striking throughout. I hadn't read Shute before, but this book has made me a permanent fan. Absolutely, this text is worth exploring and passing on. If you're looking for an escape into something both worth your time and engaging, this is it.
toomanytoolittle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Without question one of the best books I have ever read. This is a tremendous depiction of humanity and grace in the face of the utter chaos and depravity of a nation falling into war. The amazing thing is that this was contemporaneously written in 1942 while the war was raging. A very simple story that is a quick read, but is amazingly powerful. I can't recommend this beautiful story enough.
nkmunn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So glad I read this one. I'd been looking forward to it for a long time and it didn't disappoint. Time and patience have their own roles in this story. Patience is rewarded, time keeps marching on and taking time to hear a story is rewarded best of all.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nevil Shute is excellent at depicting the effects of war on individuals. This book - telling the story of an elderly Englishman trying to leave France at the start of WWII, accompanied by two children, and as the book's title suggests ending up with several more - would be great to read alongside historical studies. I enjoyed it and am keeping it on the shelf for my kids.
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Okay...bye kiley
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sure! Battlefield is res eight, but now we're guessing what each other's rpers look like.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can I be leader?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ANYONE CAN FIGHT!!!! GO ATTACK TEAM PUMPKIN AT RESULT EIGHT!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Result 15