Jan De Hartog James Hilton - Essay

James Hilton

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"The Distant Shore" is being compared to "The Caine Mutiny" and "The Cruel Sea." It is less good than either being indeed a rather loosely constructed hold-all for two different stories—first, that of the moving and anguished love affair at Westport, then the picaresque adventures of the divers, this latter section packed with thrills, studded with fascinating descriptions of seafloor topography, and pervaded with the writer's own personal philosophy, which is somewhat mystical and pantheist. There are no dull pages, whatever they contain, but there is something slightly slapdash about "The Distant Shore" which suggests that it is the work of vivid and often roguish imagination at least as much as document of war-time and post-war experience. It is certainly unflagging in its liveliness, for Mr. de Hartog has a quality that sets him in the rare minority of writers—superb narrative skill, as artlessly artful as Defoe's and as boyishly exciting as Jules Verne's. What he seems to lack is, oddly enough, the thing he has chosen to describe so brilliantly—depth beneath a shimmering surface.

James Hilton, "A Novel of the Sea: On and Under It," in New York Herald Tribune Book Review (© I.H.T. Corporation), August 24, 1952, p. 7.