The Far Country (novel)

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First edition (Heinemann)

The Far Country is a novel by Nevil Shute, first published in 1952.

In this novel, Shute has some harsh things to say about the new (British) National Health Service, as well as the socialist Labour government, themes he would later develop more fully in In the Wet. He describes the lot of the 'New Australians'; refugees who are required to work for two years where they are placed, in return for free passage to Australia.

Plot summary[edit]

The story takes place partly in London and partly in Australia. It is set in 1950. Jennifer Morton, a young girl from Leicester but living in London, witnesses the death of her grandmother, the widow of a retired Indian civil servant. Her pension has ceased and she has literally starved to death, despite apparent prosperity.[clarification needed] Before she dies, she leaves Jennifer a small sum of money sent by a niece in Australia, and asks that Jennifer use the money to visit Jane and Jack Dorman who own a prosperous sheep station in Merrijig Victoria. She does so.

Jennifer finds herself falling in love with the new, relatively unspoiled country, though she continues to worry about her parents. She also meets Carl Zlinter, a 'New Australian'; a Czech refugee who is working at the nearby lumber camp of a timber company as a condition of his free passage to Australia. A medical doctor qualified to practise in Czechoslovakia, he is not qualified to practise in Australia and only looks after First Aid at the lumber camp. But when an accident badly injures two of the workers and no doctor, nurse or medical facilities are available, he is faced with the choice of either watching the workers die or operating on them; he chooses to operate, and Jennifer assists him. The two operations are successful, but one man later gets drunk and dies. Zlinter is initially in potentially serious trouble over the unlicensed operations and death, but he is cleared of responsibility.

Jennifer helps Zlinter to trace the history of a man of the same name who lived and died in the district many years before, during a gold rush, and they find the site of his house.

Back in England, Jennifer's mother dies and she is forced to return, but she is now restless and dissatisfied. Zlinter turns up in Leicester; he has found gold dust that the earlier Zlinter earned as a bullock driver and hid beneath a stone. He has used the money from illegally selling the gold to travel to England to ask Jennifer to marry him, and to re-qualify as a medical practitioner.


The character of Carl Zlinter may have been inspired by Dr Marcus Clarke, whom Nevil Shute accompanied in 1948 on his rounds as a country doctor in Cairns, Australia.

The character of Billy Slim was based on Fred Fry, a notable fly fisherman, who constructed several huts along the Howqua River and eked out a quiet existence in the river valley.[1]


The title comes from the 40th poem (in Roman numerals XL) in A.E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad.[2]

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

1972 adaptation[edit]

The Far Country
Written byDavid Whittaker
Directed byEric Taylor
StarringBernadette Hughson
Peter Gwynne
Country of originAustralia
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes6 x 1 hour
Producer(s)Eric Taylor
Original networkABC
Original release1972

The novel was adapted for television on the ABC in 1972. Shooting of the six episode series took place in Orange and Bathurst.[3][4]

1987 adaptation[edit]

The Far Country
Written byPeter Yeldham
Directed byGeorge Miller
StarringMichael York
Sigrid Thornton
Paul Cronin
Country of originAustralia
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes2 x 2 hours
Producer(s)John Barningham
Budget$2.8 million[3]
Original networkSeven Network
Original release1 March 1987

The novel was adapted for television again in the 1980s. Shooting took place in September and October 1985 and took place entirely in Victoria even though some scenes were set in Britain and Europe. The mini-series screened on the Seven Network in 1987.[3][5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Howqua Hills Historic Area Visitors Guide" (PDF), Park Notes, Parks Victoria, May 2008, retrieved 2010-09-13
  2. ^ XL by A.E. Housman Archived 2010-08-20 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ a b c Ed. Scott Murray, Australia on the Small Screen 1970–1995, Oxford Uni Press, 1996 p193
  4. ^ "What city folk think of the rural recession". The Canberra Times. 7 February 1972. p. 13. Retrieved 8 August 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ The Far Country at IMDB

External links[edit]