You have to wait until the last third of the book for the economics stuff and it’s so well hidden that it’s almost subversive. I’m surprised that conservatives haven’t put it on a banned book list.
Quick summary: An English lawyer draws up a trust for a kindly old Scottish gentleman who leaves his fortune to his niece with the stipulation that the full funds will not be made available to her until she is 35 years old. The old uncle wants to prevent the niece from falling prey to fortune hunters. The niece, Jean Paget, spends her childhood in Malaysia and returns there just before the start of WWII to become a typist at a rubber firm. When the Japanese invade Malaysia, the women of the firm are sent on a 6 month march from one village to another while the Japanese try to figure out what to do with them. Along the way, Jean meets Joe Harmon, an Aussie soldier commandeered by the Japanese to drive trucks for them. I won’t give too much of the plot away but let’s just say there’s a crucifixion and the two protagonists are separated for years. She thinks he’s dead, he thinks she’s married.
They finally get together with the reluctant help of the lawyer, who has fallen in love with Jean Paget even though she could be his granddaughter. Jean is not college material (although you may disagree with her own assessment after you read what she does during the war and afterwards) but she has a keen business sense. She can’t get all of her money for 10 more years when the book starts. But she can get discretionary dispensations from the Lawyer. What she does with the money is clever and amazing.
This book is well written, adventurous, has a good plot, you can dance to it and even people who don’t like to read books will like this one. That’s what makes it so deliciously subversive. Nevil Shute was a clever bastard.
Get a copy for that Fox News lover in your family. After he/she reads it, you’ll never have a problem explaining Krugman or stimulus to them again. I guarantee it.
Highly recommended. It’s also a great audio book. You won’t even realize you’re cleaning.
Here’s a clip from the Masterpiece Theater production back in the 80’s. The whole movie is not available on YouTube (darn).