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Nevil Shute's most beloved novel, a tale of love and war, follows its enterprising heroine from the Malayan jungle during World War II to the rugged Australian outback. Jean Paget, a young Englishwoman living in Malaya, is captured by the invading Japanese and forced on a brutal seven-month death march with dozens of other women and children. A few years after the war, Jean Nevil Shute's most beloved novel, a tale of love and war, follows its enterprising heroine from the Malayan jungle during World War II to the rugged Australian outback. Jean Paget, a young Englishwoman living in Malaya, is captured by the invading Japanese and forced on a brutal seven-month death march with dozens of other women and children. A few years after the war, Jean is back in England, the nightmare behind her. However, an unexpected inheritance inspires her to return to Malaya to give something back to the villagers who saved her life. Jean's travels leads her to a desolate Australian outpost called Willstown, where she finds a challenge that will draw on all the resourcefulness and spirit that carried her through her war-time ordeals.


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Nevil Shute's most beloved novel, a tale of love and war, follows its enterprising heroine from the Malayan jungle during World War II to the rugged Australian outback. Jean Paget, a young Englishwoman living in Malaya, is captured by the invading Japanese and forced on a brutal seven-month death march with dozens of other women and children. A few years after the war, Jean Nevil Shute's most beloved novel, a tale of love and war, follows its enterprising heroine from the Malayan jungle during World War II to the rugged Australian outback. Jean Paget, a young Englishwoman living in Malaya, is captured by the invading Japanese and forced on a brutal seven-month death march with dozens of other women and children. A few years after the war, Jean is back in England, the nightmare behind her. However, an unexpected inheritance inspires her to return to Malaya to give something back to the villagers who saved her life. Jean's travels leads her to a desolate Australian outpost called Willstown, where she finds a challenge that will draw on all the resourcefulness and spirit that carried her through her war-time ordeals.

30 review for A Town Like Alice

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”I suppose it is because I have lived rather a restricted life myself that I have found so much enjoyment in remembering what I have learned in these last years about brave people and strange scenes. I have sat here day after day this winter, sleeping a good deal in my chair, hardly knowing if I was in London or the Gulf country, dreaming of the blazing sunshine, of poddy-dodging and black stockmen, of Cairns and of Green Island. Of a girl that I met forty years too late, and of her life in that ”I suppose it is because I have lived rather a restricted life myself that I have found so much enjoyment in remembering what I have learned in these last years about brave people and strange scenes. I have sat here day after day this winter, sleeping a good deal in my chair, hardly knowing if I was in London or the Gulf country, dreaming of the blazing sunshine, of poddy-dodging and black stockmen, of Cairns and of Green Island. Of a girl that I met forty years too late, and of her life in that small town that I shall never see again, that holds so much of my affection.” There was a 1981 mini-series starring Bryan Brown and Helen Morse. Our narrator is a solicitor by the name of Noel Strachan who is ”as solid as the Bank of England, and as sticky as treacle.” He becomes involved with an estate that seems to be a straightforward affair, but soon it evolves into his most all consuming case. It involves a woman named Jean Paget, to him more of a girl, but as we learn her story, we find out just how much of a woman she really is. Paget’s story is based on true events. This story is set in Malaya, but the real story is set in Sumatra. The women and children taken by the Japanese during the war are Dutch, not British, and Nevil Shute gets many things wrong. Some of that is translation problems, and some of those are changes necessary to tell the story he wants to tell. The Japanese take all foreign nationals in Malaya prisoner. They separate the men from the women, haul the men off to camps, and don’t have a clue what to with the women and children. So they march them in what turns out to be random directions towards mythical camps for women and children that never materialize. With every brutal mile, their ranks are thinned, and the youngest woman among them becomes their de facto leader. Jean Paget. She befriends a truck driver from the Australian outback, Jim Harman, who steals much needed supplies at great risk. Eventually, he is caught. ”’I stole those mucking chickens and I gave them to her. So what?’ said Joe. The ’So what?’ turns out to be a very big deal indeed. ”’They crucified him,’ she said quietly. ‘They took us down to Kuantan, and they nailed his hands to a tree, and beat him to death. They kept us there, and made us look on while they did it.’” This is a story that Paget tells to Noel Strachan, and he shares the story with us. Over the course of the novel, she continues to write to him about her life. Despite the age difference and the impracticality of a relationship, it is easy to see that Strachan has fallen in love with Jean Paget, and as it turned out, so did Joe Harman. Joe Harman is based on a real man by the name of Herbert James ‘Ringer’ Edwards. He was every inch the man that Shute describes in his novel. Look at that jaunty angle to his hat. In this edition, there is a wonderful afterword by Jenny Colgan. She makes the case that writers, craftsmen and craftswomen, like Nevil Shute, Bernard Malamud, Elizabeth Taylor, Robertson Davies are largely forgotten by the reading community today. Interestingly enough, I have several books by all these writers in my personal library. I am the consummate pursuer of writers, exactly like Shute, who have been relegated to the past, left for dead, but who are in need of a resurrection with a new generation of readers. He has certainly left his mark on me. I think about Shute’s book On the Beach at least once a week. It is one of my favorite post-apocalyptic books. I have a feeling I will be similarly haunted by A Town Like Alice. Nevil Shute Norway is his full name. To keep his engineering life and his writing life separated, he existed under Norway in one and Shute in the other. He became caught up in the disastrous airship craze between the world wars, and he is brought to life so vividly by David Dennington in his historical novel The Airshipmen. Shute’s writing style is crisp, concise, and straightforward. There is romance, but he presents it in such a practical fashion that the plot never bogs down in the melodrama of star crossed lovers. ”But Shute was a storytelling craftsman to his bones; an aeronautics obsessive-- there are very few authors who are also excellent engineers. He never constructs a lazy or shoddy sentence, any more than he’d have let the wings fall off one of his aeroplanes.” After receiving her legacy, Jean ends up in the outback of Australia, being exactly the can-do woman she was in Malaya. She wants to build the sparse few buildings of Willstown into the next Alice Springs. I find this part of the story so inspiring. She is such an natural entrepreneur. She asks the right questions. What do people need? What do people want that they don’t even know they want it yet? What must we do to make each venture profitable? How does she keep the young women from running off to the big cities? No young women means there are no young men. In many ways, she is like Bugsy Siegel who envisioned casinos in the desert. She wants to build A Town Like Alice. She uses her legacy to build something. There is one major plot twist which is dangled so masterfully by Shute, but the reveal is not a grand fireworks affair. That just isn’t Shute’s style. He brings it in subtly, as if to say,...of course, this is what really happened. Poor Noel Strachan meets the girl of his dreams forty years too late, but fate does at least let him meet her. You, too, can meet Jean Paget and Joe Harman and get to know what poddy-dodging means and ringers, but more importantly, if you love a good story as well crafted as the airplanes you trust your life to, then you should be reading Nevil Shute. His books should not be forgotten. Blow the dust off them in your local library and paperback exchanges, and let his stories live in your mind as they do in mine. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visithttp://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emily May

    I want to pay what tribute is within my power to the most gallant lady I have ever met. - Author's Note I've owned a copy of A Town Like Alice for more than ten years now, and I've always stopped short of reaching for it because... it just didn't sound that interesting to me. On the whole, I'm not a huge fan of war books, especially those set within the conflict itself. But I made a mistake waiting to read this one. I've been missing out. This is one helluva good yarn. It's all told in first person I want to pay what tribute is within my power to the most gallant lady I have ever met. - Author's Note I've owned a copy of A Town Like Alice for more than ten years now, and I've always stopped short of reaching for it because... it just didn't sound that interesting to me. On the whole, I'm not a huge fan of war books, especially those set within the conflict itself. But I made a mistake waiting to read this one. I've been missing out. This is one helluva good yarn. It's all told in first person minor by a solicitor, Noel Strachan, who is the executor of the late James McFadden's estate. After he dies, Noel must locate McFadden's niece, Jean Paget, who is set to inherit his fortune, but, because McFadden didn't believe women were capable of handling their own finances, it is all tied up in a trust until Jean reaches thirty-five. At first glance, Jean Paget is gentle-mannered and unassuming, as you might expect from a well-behaved young lady in 1940s England. But as Noel gets to know her, an unbelievable tale unravels. Jean takes him back to the jungles of Malaya, when the Japanese invaded and led her, along with a group of other women and children, on a death march across the country. Many died of disease, or malnutrition, or exhaustion. This is based on a true story of a march that took place in Sumatra. Later in the novel, we follow Jean, through letters and anecdotes received by Noel, as she returns to Malaya to put her money into a well for the hardworking women of the village she spent several years in, as a thank you for saving her life. Then to Australia, to the lonely outpost of Willstown in search of a brave figure from her past, whose aid to the group of women in Malaya was invaluable, and had devastating consequences for him. For an old white guy writing in the 1940s-50s (and I did have to go check it wasn't a Ms Nevil Shute), the author has done a pretty great job of writing an incredibly strong, complex female character. I love how he juxtaposed the very capable Jean Paget (and other women in this story) with the sexist conditions of James Mcfadden's will, making his lack of faith in women even more ridiculous. He portrays the Malays as mostly kind, considerate, yet multifaceted people, though they are also noted as being uncivilized in comparison with the English women. It's hard to know whether this reflects the author's beliefs, or the characters' only. Jean is openly critical of segregation in Australia, something that I had little knowledge of prior to reading this book. It was an engaging, gritty tale that kept me hooked from start to finish. And it had just the right amount of romance.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    There are books we can't be entirely rational about. For good or bad, they push our personal buttons, and we adore or detest them beyond their own merits. A Town Like Alice is one of those books I love beyond reason. It contains courage, determination when the odds are against you, and taking action to change others' lives and the world around you for the better. It has some bittersweet moments, as well as a little bit of romance. Nevil Shute based this 1950 novel on a WWII story he had heard abou There are books we can't be entirely rational about. For good or bad, they push our personal buttons, and we adore or detest them beyond their own merits. A Town Like Alice is one of those books I love beyond reason. It contains courage, determination when the odds are against you, and taking action to change others' lives and the world around you for the better. It has some bittersweet moments, as well as a little bit of romance. Nevil Shute based this 1950 novel on a WWII story he had heard about Dutch women and children, who were Japanese prisoners of war, who were marched around Sumatra from place to place because the Japanese had no prison camp to put them in, many of them dying along the way. (As it turns out, he misunderstood the story: they didn't actually have to walk but were transported around the country.) He used this as the basis for this story of Jean Paget, a young Englishwoman who becomes the leader of a group of women and children who are forced to walk from town to town in Japanese-occupied Malaya (now Malaysia), in terrible circumstances. Along the way they meet a kind Australian POW, Joe Harman, a young man who helps them with food and other necessities and quickly becomes a friend to Jean. But Jean and Joe run into trouble when Joe steals some black Leghorn chickens for the underfed group. What happens then, and after, makes for a fascinating story. Malaysian village After the war, Jean inherits some money, and becomes friends with Noel Strachan, the elderly English solicitor who is her trustee. Noel is the narrator for most of the novel, and sometimes his voice gets a little dry and tedious in relating tangential details, kind of befitting an aging lawyer (I can say that :D). At the same time, he has a certain old-fashioned charm and wry humor. Noel watches Jean fall in love with a distinct feeling of regret, since her new life will take her away from England, but he continues to help her as she begins to transform the Australian outback town where she has chosen to live. Queensland, Australia As he decides to travel to visit Jean to help her with some legal matters, one of his law partners is concerned for his health:"I only wish you hadn't got to put so much of your energy into this. After all, it's a fairly trivial affair." "I can't agree with that," I said. "I'm beginning to think that this thing is the most important business that I ever handled in my life."I've read this book three or four times over the years. I noticed much more this time how Noel's narration sometimes gets repetitive and tedious (I wish I had a dollar for every time a character stared at someone or said "Oh my word"). I don't know if Nevil Shute deliberately wrote it that way or if that's just his style of writing. But then there's a wonderful scene or a lovely turn of phrase, and I fall in love with this book all over again.In the half light he turned as she came out of the hut, and he was back in the Malay scene of six years ago. She was barefooted, and her hair hung down in a long plait, as it had been in Malaya. She was no longer the strange English girl with money; she was Mrs. Boong again, the Mrs. Boong he had remembered all those years.It's old-fashioned in many ways, but it still moves and inspires me. And for that reason, despite its occasional weaknesses, it's staying at the full five stars. February 2015 reread/buddy read with Hana. __________________ Previous review: This is one of my all-time favorite books. It consists of two quite different halves, with the first half relating the travails of Jean Paget and a group of English women in Malaya during WWII, and the second half about Jean's romance with an Australian man she had met briefly during her travels in Malaya and her efforts to turn his Australian town into a decent place for women and families to live. I may be in the minority of liking the second half better than the first, not just for the romance (which is nice but doesn't take up a lot of space in the book) but more for the way in which the main character takes action to change her town. It's inspiring and enjoyable reading, even if rather deliberately paced at times. Highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    My first read by this author and it definitely won't be my last. Felt like this was two stories held together by the indefatiable Jean Paget, she certainly is a wonderful, well written character. Loved out narrator Noel, the older, gentlemanly London soliciter who administers the estate left to Jean from an uncle she little remembers. There are no gimmicks here, just some good, old fashioned story telling with the added bonus of one learning quite a bit about Malaya, though the events here were My first read by this author and it definitely won't be my last. Felt like this was two stories held together by the indefatiable Jean Paget, she certainly is a wonderful, well written character. Loved out narrator Noel, the older, gentlemanly London soliciter who administers the estate left to Jean from an uncle she little remembers. There are no gimmicks here, just some good, old fashioned story telling with the added bonus of one learning quite a bit about Malaya, though the events here were actually perpetuated in Sumatra, and about Australia and the ghost towns left empty after the gold Rush. The author explains this and also that Jean's character was created to honor the very real woman who went through what Jean does after the Japanese invasion. It is no wonder then that I felt this part of the book was written the best. Queensland, Australia and the stations at Wells town is the setting for the second half, connected of course by Jean and a person she meets in Malaya. He will be the reason she travels to Australia where she will make the most of her inheritance by improving the town she will soon call home. I love her character, she never gives up, plans and changes thing not to her liking and at a time when not many women had the ways nor means to do these things. I enjoyed this story immensely and loved the feelings ng I got while reading this story, especially the second half where Jean really comes into her own. Plenty of good stuff here and look forward to reading others by this author.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Candi

    “People who spent the war in prison camps have written a lot of books about what a bad time they had. They don’t know what it was like, not being in a camp.” I’ve had this compact mass market paperback sitting on my bookshelf for several years. This format is one of the reasons I waited so long to pick it up! Odd bookworm that I am, I don’t like the feel of this little book in my hands. And the more years that passed by, the smaller the print seemed to get! In any case, I was in the mood for some “People who spent the war in prison camps have written a lot of books about what a bad time they had. They don’t know what it was like, not being in a camp.” I’ve had this compact mass market paperback sitting on my bookshelf for several years. This format is one of the reasons I waited so long to pick it up! Odd bookworm that I am, I don’t like the feel of this little book in my hands. And the more years that passed by, the smaller the print seemed to get! In any case, I was in the mood for some old fashioned storytelling and let go of my little pet peeves momentarily. I’m very glad I did. I gobbled the first half up in record time (for me) during a couple of sultry days off from work. It was easy to feel the Malayan jungle and the Australian outback while reading. Lucky for me, I was sitting in the comfort of my lounge chair with a glass of iced tea rather than traipsing for months with a group of women and children across Malaya during World War II. I had no fears of contracting dysentery or malaria or any other number of tropical illnesses. All I needed was my sunscreen and my umbrella. “It all seems so remote, as if it was something that happened to another person, years ago – something that you’d read in a book. As if it wasn’t me at all.” The first portion of the book is Jean Paget’s story as narrated to Noel Strachan, the solicitor in charge of the estate she has just unexpectedly inherited. It’s a grueling tale of survival. It’s one that made me a huge admirer of Jean’s fortitude and resilience. After being evacuated from her temporary home in Malaya, Jean is marched for months with a group of mostly married women and children from one end of the country to the other as the Japanese have no real camp in which to place them. No one wants to take responsibility for this bunch. After their original numbers dwindle to about half, they will need to become resourceful if they are to survive the war. It is Jean that ultimately fashions an enterprising plan. Along the way, they meet an Australian ringer, Joe Harman, now a prisoner and truck driver for the Japanese army. He becomes a hero of sorts and Jean will never be able to permanently erase this tragic figure of a man from her memory. He leaves Jean with a beautiful vision of Alice Springs, a place quite far removed from the horrors of the war. He also left it forever imprinted in my own mind. “It’s red. Red around Alice and where I come from, red earth and then, the mountains are all red. The Macdonnells and the Levis and the Kernots, great red ranges of bare hills against the blue sky. Evenings they go purple and all sorts of colours. After the wet there’s green all over them. In the dry, parts of them go silvery white with the spinifex. I suppose everybody likes his own place. The country round about the Springs is my place… The country round about the Springs is beautiful to me.” With Jean back in England several years following the war, and with a sudden windfall of money at her (somewhat) disposal, she decides to give back to the Malayan community that saved her life. She ventures back to the scene of so much past sorrow. From here the story takes an unexpected turn and I’ll refrain from saying much more. Jean is a visionary and I give Nevil Shute a lot of credit for developing a woman with such pluck and ingenuity. The reader, along with Noel Strachan, grows to love her even more. It has a bit of a nostalgic tone when told through Noel’s vantage point across time and miles. He learns of Jean’s further adventures through a series of letters. The one thing I found odd was that I never felt any sort of emotional pull. This is very straightforward storytelling. Although a lot of the descriptions of the landscape are told with vivid detail, I didn’t necessarily feel a lot for the characters other than admiration. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Just a curious sort of observation on my part. Oh, and this was written in 1950. Reader beware of some racial slurs that troubled me despite the setting. I just can’t help noticing when these things are so glaringly obvious. Besides this, I don’t have many complaints other than these two: 1. It lost some momentum for me towards the end. 2. The dialogue became a bit sentimental and somewhat repetitive during the last few chapters. But don’t mind me. It’s still a remarkable story well worth your time. I just happened to be coming off a Susan Fletcher high shortly before this one! From the author’s note: “I shall be told that nothing of the sort ever happened in Malaya, and this is true. It happened in Sumatra. … I have been unable to resist the appeal of this true story, and because I want to pay what tribute is within my power to the most gallant lady I have ever met.”

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lawyer

    I couldn't tell you why I have resisted reading "A Town Like Alice" for so many years. But I did. Perhaps it is for the best whatever time it is we chose to land a particular book in our hands. When I began to read Shute's book, I quickly fell into it. Noel Strachan is perhaps one of the most charming narrators I've encountered. Shute's use of the aging British Solicitor to unveil the story of Jean Paget drew me into the tale. It was a simple enough matter. Strachan was hired to write the will an I couldn't tell you why I have resisted reading "A Town Like Alice" for so many years. But I did. Perhaps it is for the best whatever time it is we chose to land a particular book in our hands. When I began to read Shute's book, I quickly fell into it. Noel Strachan is perhaps one of the most charming narrators I've encountered. Shute's use of the aging British Solicitor to unveil the story of Jean Paget drew me into the tale. It was a simple enough matter. Strachan was hired to write the will and administer the estate of Mr. McFadden. It is the type of case that routinely crosses a lawyer's desk. The will was quite straight forward, and quite traditional. Upon McFadden's death, his estate was to go to his sister as a life estate. Upon her demise the estate was to devolve to her son. Should he predecease McFadden, the estate would go to our protagonist Jean Paget. McFadden was easily what we would term a chauvinist today. Should Jean Paget be his heir, his estate was to be held in trust for her until the age of thirty-five. McFadden didn't believe young women had a head for handling money. However, war has a way of causing the least favored bequests in wills to often be made. In this case World War Two left McFadden's estate to his least favored heir. It was up to Strachan to sort things out and carry out his client's last wishes. Of course, Jean Paget was never the woman McFadden believed his niece to be. She survived a death march of non-combatant women and children following the Japanese invasion of Malaya. Her brother did not survive imprisonment in a prisoner of war camp. Shute's portrayal of Jean and her fellow English women and their children is a tribute to the courage and endurance of those individuals who have come to be called the collateral damage of war. The Japanese have no use for these women and children. Nor do they want to waste precious resources on keeping them alive when there is the Imperial Army to feed. Into this mix, Shute throws in a plucky Australian, Joe, conscripted by the Japanese to drive trucks of material for them. Of course, Joe and Jean meet. He admires this young woman whom he believes to be married. On more than one occasion Joe manages to smuggle food, medicines, and soaps to the wandering band of women and children. However, war rarely leaves possible lovers in a situation that allows a relationship to blossom. Joe and Jean are separated under circumstances which this reviewer will not reveal. As a bit of an aside, I found Shute's depiction of Japanese troops and their behavior toward the British women and children one of the most sensitive and humane portrayals in literature and history. Interestingly, it is the line soldier who exhibits the greatest humanity to their charges. It is the Imperial Officer who turns a blind eye to the plight of non-combatants. It would be tempting to say that "A Town Like Alice" is a sentimental romance and leave it at that. However, it goes beyond those limits in a depiction of courage and survival, while acting selflessly, and a life lived happily ever after. I'm told that happens some times. I wouldn't attempt to deny that degree of happiness to those that find it, nor would I sneer at it because I hadn't necessarily found it. I will admit at this juncture that I am unabashedly a romantic. Nevil Shute wrote a story which enchanted me with its charm, courage, and passion that was truly unbridled only after a wedding ring was slipped onto a finger, and a marriage meant to last a lifetime. Old fashioned, you say? "Too right. It's a right crook affair." By all means, be welcome to those sentiments if you have succumbed to the cynicism of our supposedly modern world. There is nothing in this book to dislike unless you simply refuse to believe in the possibility of happy endings. They do happen, you know. Oh, there's a bit of Neal Strachan in me. I am an aging lawyer as he was. Jean Paget is one of those women capable of enchanting many a man with her mind, her intellect, her toughness, and her capacity to love, not only a man, but life and all it encompasses. Too right, Mr. Shute. Too right.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Margitte

    I wanted to read this book for such a very long time. I don't know why. But finally it was done, and the tick on the Bucket List is happily added. The story is based on a true story and therefore can be expected to be treated with utmost respect. Fact and fiction is entwined here in such a way that the distinction between tale and truth becomes impossible. However, the impact of the story is very real and very striking. During WWII a group of English women were captured by the Japanese in the vi I wanted to read this book for such a very long time. I don't know why. But finally it was done, and the tick on the Bucket List is happily added. The story is based on a true story and therefore can be expected to be treated with utmost respect. Fact and fiction is entwined here in such a way that the distinction between tale and truth becomes impossible. However, the impact of the story is very real and very striking. During WWII a group of English women were captured by the Japanese in the vicinity of Padang, and forced to wander around in Sumatra for two and a half years. In the real story, eighty women and children formed the initial group and less than thirty survived. The main character in this book, was one of them. In the novel however, the number of women who started out was 32 and end with something like 16. Malaysia, instead of Sumatra, is the focal country in this story by the author's own admission and choice. The women and children obviously suffered an unimaginable ordeal which could only be stressed in a novel like this, written by a master storyteller. There was no prisoner camps for them set up and the Japanese did not want to take responsibility for them. Their solution was to send them all over the place, from town to town on foot, covering hundreds of miles, hoping to unofficially terminate their lives through exhaustion and starvation. It worked. The Japanese military leaders almost succeeded. Eventually, at the end of the war, the remaining members of the group were repatriated. Six years after the war, our protagonist, Miss Jean Paget , the young unmarried leader of the group, decided to return to the Malaysian village who took care of them for three years, and repay them for their kindness. And then she had to find the Australian soldier who risked his life for them . She wanted to find closure, but also give back in her own way. It is a shocking story. Heart-breaking with out a doubt. However, a love story was waiting in the wings. An amazing tale. This is not a drama in the true sense of the word. I got the impression that the author wanted to honor a friend's life story by turning it into a novel. In comparison with the novels, "Garden of Evening Mist' , as well as "The Gift of Rain", authored by Tan Twang Eng, as well as numerous others, this tale softened the experiences of the prisoners considerably. Nevil Shute portrays the ground level Japanese troops as humane towards these wandering innocent victims of the war. It is probably one of the outstanding features in the tale. The geographical and historical detail in the book are impressive. In the end it becomes the story of a town being born when one woman explores the possibilities embedded in a remote Australian community. The story celebrates courage and endurance, integrity and strength of character. The narrator is her solicitor, Neal Strachan, who goes to great lengths to defend his client's courage and self confidence in a totally chauvinistic environment. The book was originally published in 1950. It must have stirred a few established social mores and values at the time. I'm not sure where fact and fiction should split up. It doesn't really matter either. The author also spent a great part of the second half of the tale turning it into a travel journal. Well, sort of. The charm and uniqueness of the Australian outback as well as the beauty of Malaysia is presented in fascinating detail. This was a good read in so many many ways.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Anne (On semi-hiatus)

    5 stars This is Nevil Shute's best novel. I just finished my second read. Actually I listened to it, narrated beautifully by Robin Bailey. It's a fabulous long story about war, love, and one woman, Jean Paget, who has the smarts, guts and generosity to save and improve the lives of everyone who comes within her sphere in every situation in which she finds herself . I grew to admire and adore not only Jean but also the 2 other main characters in this story as it moved from WWII Malaya to London a 5 stars This is Nevil Shute's best novel. I just finished my second read. Actually I listened to it, narrated beautifully by Robin Bailey. It's a fabulous long story about war, love, and one woman, Jean Paget, who has the smarts, guts and generosity to save and improve the lives of everyone who comes within her sphere in every situation in which she finds herself . I grew to admire and adore not only Jean but also the 2 other main characters in this story as it moved from WWII Malaya to London and then to the Australian outback. As the story grew to a close tears welled up in my eyes for I knew that my time with these lovely people was coming to an end. I wanted to stop listening so that the story wouldn't end but I couldn't stop because I wanted to hear how it ended. I will not forget Jean Paget nor her story for a very long time. This is such a beautiful story well told. Highly recommended.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    Jean Paget was part of a group of women and children captured by the Japanese at the beginning of the invasion of Malaya. The men were sent to camps while their captors didn’t know what to do with the women and children. And so began the horrific march across Malaya, from one place to the next over miles and miles of dense jungle. During the walk, several of their party died, but Jean’s role as leader went well as she was the only person able to speak the local language. When the diminished grou Jean Paget was part of a group of women and children captured by the Japanese at the beginning of the invasion of Malaya. The men were sent to camps while their captors didn’t know what to do with the women and children. And so began the horrific march across Malaya, from one place to the next over miles and miles of dense jungle. During the walk, several of their party died, but Jean’s role as leader went well as she was the only person able to speak the local language. When the diminished group came across Australian prisoners of war, Joe Harman from northern Australia did his best to help the group. He was caught and brutally punished… After the war and repatriated to England, Jean’s lifestyle was a sedentary one. But after considerable time she learned something contrary to her beliefs and so headed for Australia in search of Joe; she needed to know if he was alright. Would she find him? Joe had spoken fondly of Alice Springs – could she find him in a town like Alice? A Town Like Alice by Aussie author Nevil Shute is an exceptional tale. Based on the true story of Dutch women and children captured by the Japanese in Sumatra, Shute met the strong, courageous woman who led the group through the jungle, and wanted to honour her with this story. Hence Jean Paget was born. Originally published in 1950, A Town Like Alice is a classic I highly recommend.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Ansbro

    Nevil Shute's sweeping novel sees privileged Englishwoman, Jean Paget, upended from her expat life in colonial Malaya by the invading Japanese, in WWII. Paget somehow survives the brutality of an enforced death march through a jungle peninsula and eschews the home comforts of post-war England for altruistic work in far-flung climes (Malaya and the Australian outback). This is a compelling read, despite it seeming a bit dated now, and Shute can be commended for creating a modern, ballsy femal Nevil Shute's sweeping novel sees privileged Englishwoman, Jean Paget, upended from her expat life in colonial Malaya by the invading Japanese, in WWII. Paget somehow survives the brutality of an enforced death march through a jungle peninsula and eschews the home comforts of post-war England for altruistic work in far-flung climes (Malaya and the Australian outback). This is a compelling read, despite it seeming a bit dated now, and Shute can be commended for creating a modern, ballsy female character in a time of authorial chauvinism.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

    A Town Like Alice reminds me so much of my favorite book, Mrs. Mike. Both catalog the difficulties and triumphs of living in remote areas. Both are historical. Both have a strong and engaging female protagonist who are in love with a man responsibly tied to a piece of land. Neither are fluffy Harlequins but make that pit in the bottom of your stomach churn with romance. In short, I loved it. A Town Like Alice follows Jean Paget, a Scottish woman who was raised by her parents in Malay (now known a A Town Like Alice reminds me so much of my favorite book, Mrs. Mike. Both catalog the difficulties and triumphs of living in remote areas. Both are historical. Both have a strong and engaging female protagonist who are in love with a man responsibly tied to a piece of land. Neither are fluffy Harlequins but make that pit in the bottom of your stomach churn with romance. In short, I loved it. A Town Like Alice follows Jean Paget, a Scottish woman who was raised by her parents in Malay (now known as Malaysia), returns to work there as an adult and ultimately finds herself trapped there as a Prisoner of War when the Japanese invade the Island during World War II. Her captivity is accurately described as horrible, with starvation and long marches from town to town killing many women and children. But, it also shows that unique ability of women to nurture, even in the most degrading situations. When she meets Joe Harman, an Australian ringger (cowboy) and fellow POW, he tells Jean about his home and work near Alice Springs, a bonza town in the heart of the Outback. The two extremely lonely and isolated characters become friends. Eventually, when Joe steals five chickens to feed the sick and hungry women and children, Jean is interrogated and punished until Joe confesses and is later crucified by a cruel Japanese leader. The story's narration is directed by an elderly British attorney, Noel Strachan, who is put in charge of a trust Jean's uncle leaves her. Even with the narration in his control, most of the story is told through Jean sharing her memories to Noel. Eventually, I found Noel's involvement and third party perspective very satisfying, mostly because it allowed the author to cover a greater amount of time without seeming overly jumpy. The book was written in 1950 and feels like it at times. The attitudes of segregation and thoughtless caricatures of minorities creates feelings of discomfort and embarrassment.However, it's not done with malice, and the story isn't about racial barriers at all, so I didn't find it offensive. If anything, it allows a glimpse into an unapologetic view that most white people probably had at the time - which is actually an interesting glimpse on its own. I appreciated this book - for its less frequently told story of female prisoners of war and for its celebration of the human spirit.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nandakishore Mridula

    This novel had been lying about my house in India for a long time: an old copy somebody abandoned (I couldn't even recognise the name written on the cover). Old houses gather books like they do other things (moth-eaten clothes, faded photographs and chipped chinaware). This vacation, it kept on intruding itself into my consciousness so I said What the hell! and finally decided to read it. The book pulled me into it at the beginning. I liked the roundabout way Shute approached the story of Jean Pa This novel had been lying about my house in India for a long time: an old copy somebody abandoned (I couldn't even recognise the name written on the cover). Old houses gather books like they do other things (moth-eaten clothes, faded photographs and chipped chinaware). This vacation, it kept on intruding itself into my consciousness so I said What the hell! and finally decided to read it. The book pulled me into it at the beginning. I liked the roundabout way Shute approached the story of Jean Paget through her uncle's will and his solicitor, Noel Strachan (who is also the story's narrator) - the legalese and leisurely pace of the story was so very British. Then, we are suddenly plunged into war-torn Malaya and the personal heroism of Jean and her Australian admirer, Joe Harman: extremely gripping stuff. Bud sadly, for me, after that the novel began to flag - it became a sort of travelogue about the Australian outback mixed up with and instruction booklet on "How to Set Up Business in Rural Australia". I became so bored that I only skimmed the last third. Still I give it two stars for the gripping first half and the sympathetic portrayal of Malays and even the Japanese - without a hint of racism: a relative rarity for a book first published in 1950.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Written in 1950, Nevil Shute's classic novel acquaints the reader with Jean Paget, a young English women living in Malaya during the Japanese occupation. Taken as P.O.W.s, she and a group of English women and children are forced on a seven month death march through the jungle. Due to her resourcefulness she becomes the spokesperson, negotiating for food, medicine, and other basic needs. After enduring this horrific experience, she returns to London and learns she is the benefactor of a substanti Written in 1950, Nevil Shute's classic novel acquaints the reader with Jean Paget, a young English women living in Malaya during the Japanese occupation. Taken as P.O.W.s, she and a group of English women and children are forced on a seven month death march through the jungle. Due to her resourcefulness she becomes the spokesperson, negotiating for food, medicine, and other basic needs. After enduring this horrific experience, she returns to London and learns she is the benefactor of a substantial inheritance. Remembering an Australian P.O.W. who befriended her group in Malaya, she travels in Alice Springs, a desolate outpost in the outback. Here she again demonstrates her vision, ingenuity and entrepreneurial skills helping this lonely place become a desired and thriving location. Based partly on a true story, Shute has written an account of an amazing woman, one who knew how to overcome adversity and survive. His writing is not lyrical; I didn't reread sentences for the beauty of the words. It is a story of hope and perseverance, of courage and love. Some abbreviated editions and also the original movie turned this beautiful book into a sappy love story; it is so much more.

  14. 4 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    ‘Oh my word.' What a confused book. A Town Like Alice has been such an intriguing read. The writing had an easy flow to it and the story was certainly gripping, even though this decidedly is a book of two halves. The first half deals with the history of Jean Paget, in which we follow her to Malaya under the Japanese occupation. The second half takes us on Jean's journey to Australia, where she hopes to find out more about the man she whose death she believes she caused. There is much to like about ‘Oh my word.' What a confused book. A Town Like Alice has been such an intriguing read. The writing had an easy flow to it and the story was certainly gripping, even though this decidedly is a book of two halves. The first half deals with the history of Jean Paget, in which we follow her to Malaya under the Japanese occupation. The second half takes us on Jean's journey to Australia, where she hopes to find out more about the man she whose death she believes she caused. There is much to like about both parts of the story. Both parts present historical information (even tho fictionalised) to 20th century events. Both parts show how events shape a character and how a character can create change in turn. I loved how the story is tied back to the narration by a single elderly solicitor who both looks after the interests of his trustee but who also acknowledges the generational gaps between them. However, it is with this assumption of a guardianship that the book also shows its age and its outdated attitudes. And with respect to the generational differences, this may even be the point of the book (one of them), to show how attitudes towards women have changed, if only slightly (?) - Jean's uncle didn't believe an unmarried woman under 40 had sense enough to deal with money, her solicitor didn't share this attitude but still presided over the trust fund in a patronising manner, Jean herself didn't trust her ability (even tho she had already proven to be a very strong character) and it took encouragement for her to set up her own enterprise(s). This is a part of the book that confused me, too. Jean is portrayed as such an indecisive character at times, yet, her actions leave no doubt about her ability to make choices. Of course, the portrayal of aboriginal people and other people of non-white extraction is a reflection of the racism of the time that the book was written, and one of the reasons i didn't like this book better. But there was something else that irked me: in the first part of the story, part of the message seemed to have been that the main character learned about how silly attitudes of cultural superiority are. In the second part of the book, this is somewhat forgotten or set aside. This may have been because the story was not told from Jean's perspective entirely, but still it felt like an odd break in the story. And don't get me started on the love story part of the book. Some of the most ludicrous and chauvinist parts of the book are sold as "romance" - having a character covered in bruises after a "romantic" encounter, letting the character say it was her fault, and following this up with an engagement ..... it just did not gel. I'm seriously confused by Shute. Or maybe he was? Anyway, The first half of the book is great, the second less so, which is mostly because the first half is a story in its own right and the second half takes away from it. Again, I'm seriously confused why Shute did this. Did he attempt an epic saga and fail? I have no answer to this. What I have done, tho, is that I culled many a Shute title from my tbr.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    The author Nevil Shute left Britain and migrated to Australia because he believed that the advent of the Welfare State would cause people to go soft(view spoiler)[ because obviously life should be hard and characterised by arbitrary harshness towards one another, that's what toughens people up so they can steal chickens from the Japanese (hide spoiler)] . Australia in his imagination was a decently virile and macho kind of place, and perhaps it is. In the way that popular fiction often is, this i The author Nevil Shute left Britain and migrated to Australia because he believed that the advent of the Welfare State would cause people to go soft(view spoiler)[ because obviously life should be hard and characterised by arbitrary harshness towards one another, that's what toughens people up so they can steal chickens from the Japanese (hide spoiler)] . Australia in his imagination was a decently virile and macho kind of place, and perhaps it is. In the way that popular fiction often is, this is a heavily ideological novel. So the ideal reader of this book: believes that white skinned people are naturally superior to all others, and that segregation is a a sensible response to humans having different skin tones, and that if a white man marries a non-white woman (or meta-white) we should feel sympathy and sorrow for his desperate state, and that a white woman may marry a non-white man if she is catholic, and that there is a a self evident and natural division of labour between man the mechanic, and woman the home maker, and that women ought not to be trusted to manage money on account of their giddiness until they are deep into their 30s, unless married and with children, however even in such circumstances the supervision of a suitably serious man is still advisable, inevitably homosexuals can't operate heavy machinery (assuming any such persons exist outside of medical speculation - which is obviously highly unlikely especially in Australia), and that nature exists to provide us with fancy leather footwear or briefcases, and finally it is inevitable that organised labour causes decent people to throw their hands up in the air with despair and close down their businesses. Aside from this, unlike in An Old Captivity, Shute does remember at the end of his yarn that he is using a framing story to convey the narrative to the reader. Culturally this is an interesting novel in being I guess an early example of the Australia fascination that led to TV programmes like The Flying Doctors and the young flying Doctors, the Sulivans and Skippy the flying kangaroo sludging up daytime TV schedules in the UK in the 70s and 80s to the detriment of Crown Court and Mr Benn ,there is a nice early positive reference to Australian wine as well, at the same time we see that Australia will look not to the UK but to the USA as its role model- again a prescient insight. Curiously the early part of the plot works counter to the racial assumptions of the latter part, in that it is through abandoning their assumption of superiority, bargaining with a Malay head- ( relying on citing the holy Qu'ran to make their point too)-man offering to help with the rice cultivation in exchange for hospitality that a party of English women & children manage to survive WWII after the ignominious surrender in the face of inferior numbers of the British in Singapore to Japan- this according to the author's note was a truish story except it happened in Sumatra not Malaya and the women & children were Dutch not English (view spoiler)[ which begins to sound like one of those jokes which are entirely true apart from every detail being different (hide spoiler)] - maybe a significant difference for the lead character it is entirely natural to express her gratitude by going back to pay for a well and wash area to be constructed in the village after the war which is why the disjoint is so striking when later Miss Paget - our hero, well main character really - has no common feeling with the Australian aboriginals, their role as an inferior servant caste is accepted by her without comment. Amusingly the leading lady gets to know her leading Australian man at during the war and he fancies her then on account of her native dress - sarong and blouse, later seeing her dressed all in English style he can't touch her at which point she adopts the strategy from She stoops to conquer (view spoiler)[ just to be completely explicitly about this (view spoiler)[ the love interest and Miss Paget meet in Malaysia during the war as prisoners - she then is dressed 'like a native' and they have a cosy and chatty relationship, after the war they meet again and she is dressed like a decent Englishwoman ought to be in the Australian outback (I imagine a tweed skirt suit with a hat and a white blouse), the love interest can hardly look at her, so on a mini break she dresses down to a sarong and top, rape is avoided, but from the authors words we seem to be in the territory of violent sexual assault - thus revealing a fine range of attitudes on race and sexuality (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] and having put on a sarong is soon left bruised by his uncontrollable ardour - mileage here for an essay on dress as status code and the overlap between attitudes towards race and sexual availability(view spoiler)[ reading between the lines we can imagine that relationships on the cattle stations were deeply integrated, ahem (hide spoiler)] . Really a book of its time - however in another reading it is an early pro-globalisation text (the alligator shoe business is set up in Australia to undercut the high costs of production in Britain) and pro internal (white) migration as a means of economic development, mildly amusing with its conception of pillar industries that underpin/hold up a superstructure of an economic ecosystem (largely through the promotion of decent all white sexual relations pursued within marriage(view spoiler)[ from which I propose a new field of study - sexual-economics(view spoiler)[ which is to be thought of as rather like home-economics, but a bit duller (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] ). Enabling a town like Alice Springs to develop in the deepest outback. This is also of its time in being a technological novel - technology leaps all barriers and provides the solutions to the novels 'problems' in the forms of a/c units, DDT, aeroplanes, radios, & bulldozers. There is no questioning of he appropriateness of the technology the wisdom of its application is accepted as self-evident - all of which common sense applications of technological solutions to non-existent problems have led us to our current environmental situation. This book I rescued and will now deposit in the paper recycling box for resurrection into some useful paper product.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    The Legacy = A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute A Town Like Alice is a romance novel by Nevil Shute, published in 1950 when Shute had newly settled in Australia. Jean Paget, a young Englishwoman, becomes romantically interested in a fellow prisoner of World War II in Malaya, and after liberation emigrates to Australia to be with him, where she attempts, by investing her substantial financial inheritance, to generate economic prosperity in a small outback community—to turn it into "a town like Alice" The Legacy = A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute A Town Like Alice is a romance novel by Nevil Shute, published in 1950 when Shute had newly settled in Australia. Jean Paget, a young Englishwoman, becomes romantically interested in a fellow prisoner of World War II in Malaya, and after liberation emigrates to Australia to be with him, where she attempts, by investing her substantial financial inheritance, to generate economic prosperity in a small outback community—to turn it into "a town like Alice" i.e. Alice Springs. The story falls broadly into three parts. First part in post-World War II London, Jean Paget, a secretary in a leather goods factory, is informed by solicitor Noel Strachan that she has inherited a considerable sum of money from an uncle she never knew. ... The second part of the story flashes back to Jean's experiences during the war, when she was working in Malaya at the time the Japanese invaded and was taken prisoner together with a group of women and children. ... The third part of the book shows how Jean's entrepreneurship gives a decisive economic impact to develop Willstown into "a town like Alice"; also Jean's help in rescuing an injured stockman, which breaks down many local barriers. ... تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه ژوئن سال 2001 میلادی عنوان: شهری چون آلیس؛ نویسنده: نویل شوت؛ مترجم: علی کهربایی؛ تهران، نشر دشتستان؛ 1378، در 441 ص؛ شابک: 9649174826؛ چاپ دیگر با عنوان: راهی نیست؛ تهران، دشتستان؛ 1380؛ در 408 ص؛ شابک: 9647548036؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان استرالیائی - سده 20 م داستان، شرح ماجراهای بانویی انگلیسی به نام «جین» است، که در جنگ جهانی دوم به دست نیروهای ژاپنی اسیر می‌شود، و با بسیاری دیگر از اسرا وضعیتی دشوار را سپری می‌کند. فضای مرگ آور اردوگاه، تاثیری سوء بر اسیران می‌گذارد، اما «جین» با روحیه‌ ای وصف‌ ناپذیر امید به روزگار بهتر را همچنان حفظ می‌کند و سرانجام ...؛ ا. شربیانی

  17. 5 out of 5

    Baba

    Debatedly Shute's most famous work. And what can I say - well, this is a marvellous piece of fiction mainly set in 'the East' in Malaysia and in Australia, covering the Second World War and post-war life of the amazing Jean Paget as recounted by her solicitor. A truly wonderful, wonderful tale, by a great scribe. 8 out of 12. Debatedly Shute's most famous work. And what can I say - well, this is a marvellous piece of fiction mainly set in 'the East' in Malaysia and in Australia, covering the Second World War and post-war life of the amazing Jean Paget as recounted by her solicitor. A truly wonderful, wonderful tale, by a great scribe. 8 out of 12.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Petra

    One of the best "make lemonade out of lemons" books I've read. Warm, witty, real. Told by Noel Strachan, an aging solicitor who is the trustee of Jean's estate, this story unfolds quietly. Jean is a strong, delightful woman; just the sort needed in the development of a section of Queensland, Australia that was left as a ghost town after the gold rush ended. Although a story of love and connectivity, this isn't a sappy love story. It's a solidly told story of a determined man & woman who want to One of the best "make lemonade out of lemons" books I've read. Warm, witty, real. Told by Noel Strachan, an aging solicitor who is the trustee of Jean's estate, this story unfolds quietly. Jean is a strong, delightful woman; just the sort needed in the development of a section of Queensland, Australia that was left as a ghost town after the gold rush ended. Although a story of love and connectivity, this isn't a sappy love story. It's a solidly told story of a determined man & woman who want to forge a life together and how they did it. I'd love a wallaby as a semi-pet, too. The descriptions of homestead life in Queensland is lonely but also very lovely.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    This month's bookclub pick, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute, starts in England with an aging attorney setting up a trust. Most of the story follows Jean Paget, who spent most of World War II in Malaya as a prisoner of the Japanese. The journey after the war is the best part. It's a slow journey to get there, but paid off. Warning - there are some racist comments in here that seem a bit harsh even in 1950. This month's bookclub pick, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute, starts in England with an aging attorney setting up a trust. Most of the story follows Jean Paget, who spent most of World War II in Malaya as a prisoner of the Japanese. The journey after the war is the best part. It's a slow journey to get there, but paid off. Warning - there are some racist comments in here that seem a bit harsh even in 1950.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joy D

    Published in 1950, this modern classic is a story of a smart and capable woman, Jean Paget, as told by her solicitor and trustee, Noel Strachan, from the 1930’s to 1950’s. She is the heir to a trust established by an uncle, which is administered by Strachan’s firm. He becomes not only her solicitor but her friend. She eventually tells him about her time in Malaya (now part of Malaysia) during WWII, when she and a group of women with children were marched hundreds of miles to various villages, ea Published in 1950, this modern classic is a story of a smart and capable woman, Jean Paget, as told by her solicitor and trustee, Noel Strachan, from the 1930’s to 1950’s. She is the heir to a trust established by an uncle, which is administered by Strachan’s firm. He becomes not only her solicitor but her friend. She eventually tells him about her time in Malaya (now part of Malaysia) during WWII, when she and a group of women with children were marched hundreds of miles to various villages, each Japanese leader sending them on to the next to avoid having to feed them. They suffer tremendous hardships, but eventually find a way to remain in one station until the war ends. While there, Jean meets an Australian soldier who tries to help them, to his peril. She returns to England, meets with Strachan, and travels back to Malaya and on to Australia, where the bulk of the novel transpires. It provides a vivid picture of what life was like in the Australian Outback at that time. Themes include a woman’s place in society, entrepreneurship, and renewal of life after war. The attitudes of the period are in evidence in racial issues and gender roles; however, the author is attempting to show that these views are false. For example, Jean, being a woman, is assumed to be incompetent with money, but she proves to be an astute businesswoman. She also figures out a way to improve the lives of the women of the Malayan village that helped her group during the war. The characters are likeable and convincing. The romantic elements of the story are held in the background and do not take over the narrative. I think it might have been even more effective if Jean had told her own story, as we are getting information second-hand, which keeps the reader at a bit of distance. I am not sure how our narrator got information about her love life, which she surely would not have mentioned at the level of detail portrayed (or perhaps this is how Strachan imagined it took place?) He obviously cares for her deeply. I think this book will appeal to those who enjoy stories of international travel, altruism, or strong women.

  21. 4 out of 5

    David Dennington

    I am now posting a full review of this wonderful novel. This book has to be one of the great love stories of all time. It is based on true events which happened in Sumatra during WW2 when a group of European women were forced by the Japanese to march for thousands of miles. This is one of Nevil Shute’s best loved novels and one which I read as a teenager. I admired Nevil Shute’s writing and his close association with aviation. He was a practical man with imagination and wrote about what he knew b I am now posting a full review of this wonderful novel. This book has to be one of the great love stories of all time. It is based on true events which happened in Sumatra during WW2 when a group of European women were forced by the Japanese to march for thousands of miles. This is one of Nevil Shute’s best loved novels and one which I read as a teenager. I admired Nevil Shute’s writing and his close association with aviation. He was a practical man with imagination and wrote about what he knew best in his quiet unassuming way. This book, along with others, was made into a movie in the fifties starring the great Australian actor, Peter Finch as Joe Harman the Australian cattleman from the outback. Virginia McKenna plays the lead role as the English heroine, Jean Paget. A TV minis series was also made during the eighties. The story is told by an English solicitor who is executor of a will which causes him to search for a woman who is the only surviving party named in the will. He finds her eventually, and she tells him her story of how she’d been captured by the Japanese during the war along with more than thirty other women in Malaya. Along the way, she meets an Australian and of course, they fall in love, but there is no time for a relationship to develop as they only see each other a few times. SPOILER ALERT! During the march, half the women die, of exhaustion, decease and starvation. One mother dies and Jean carries the woman’s child on her hip for the rest of the trek and when Joe Harman meets her, he naturally believes her to be married. Very concerned, the gallant Aussie steals chickens from the Japanese to feed the malnourished women. For this, he is crucified. The women are marched away with Jean Paget believing she is the main cause of his horrible death. The storyline is nicely constructed and believable with the POV switching neatly between the old English solicitor, Jean Paget and Joe Harman. The money Jean inherits does not come to her without complications, since her uncle did not believe women were capable of handling money. She will get an allowance until she is thirty-five, after which time she will inherit a sizeable sum. The book tells the story of what she does with the money and with the careful management and advice of the old solicitor (who becomes her best friend and admirer). The story takes place over a period of more than ten years, between Malaya, England and Australia, but is never dull. As time goes by, Jean’s courage and unexpected talents are revealed. I have to confess this book gave me a lump in my throat. I am English and I love anything telling of life in the colonies i.e. Somerset Maugham et al. Shute does wonderful job in his unaffected way of storytelling. The plotting is masterful, the characters uplifting. I’d like to see a remake of this on film. Previous post: I have just been told that I've rated A Town Like Alice with only 3 stars. Actually I was merely giving a status update not a star rating. So, to put matters right and keep all the Shutists happy, I have upgraded it to five stars as I know it is a wonderful book and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Nevil Shute has been one of my heroes since I was a teenager and I have written a lot about him in my own book where he is a major player and very lovable. So, apologies to you Nevil up there in your big silver airship R100 in the heavens--an awesome machine! I cannot wait to read the rest of his books again as he gave me so much inspiration through his writing and his courage as an aviator.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lori Keeton

    I have just met the most extraordinary woman in the pages of A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. Jean Paget’s story attests to her being a smart, resourceful, pragmatic woman. Shute presents several stories within this short work and demonstrates beautifully how a succinct and simple writing style can produce quite a complex and impactful story. Shute begins his novel with the story of a London lawyer, Noel Strachan, who must locate the only heir to an estate of a Scotsman. Jean Paget learns of th I have just met the most extraordinary woman in the pages of A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. Jean Paget’s story attests to her being a smart, resourceful, pragmatic woman. Shute presents several stories within this short work and demonstrates beautifully how a succinct and simple writing style can produce quite a complex and impactful story. Shute begins his novel with the story of a London lawyer, Noel Strachan, who must locate the only heir to an estate of a Scotsman. Jean Paget learns of the trust her relative put into place and of the wealth that she now inherits. They become fast friends despite their vast age difference and Jean decides what she would like to do with some of her inheritance. She would like to build a well in a small village in Malaya in order to pay back the women who were so helpful to her during the war. Strachan slowly learns of Jean’s tragic past during the war years where she was captured by the Japanese in Malaya. Along with a number of other women and children, Jean was forced on a long 7 month walk wandering all over the country toward fictitious camps for women because none of the soldiers wanted to take responsibility for them. The majority of the novel centers on the devastation and deprivation these women endured while losing half of their number to illness and exhaustion along the way. Having spent many years living in Malaya with her family, Jean knew the language and the culture very well. Her skills and knowledge kept this group from complete despair as Jean was the only one who could communicate. Eventually Jean’s resourcefulness and sincere kindness to the Malayan people and to their Japanese captors proves a providential ending to their trek as they find refuge in a small village where they learn to prepare the rice paddy fields and work along with the Malayan women until the end of the war. At one point along the trek, Jean meets Joe Harman, an Australian prisoner driving trucks to move railway tracks across the country for the Japanese. Joe Harman helps these women with food and supplies by taking costly risks. Jean is a naturally inquisitive woman and leaves the war and Malaya with a brilliant idea of the Australian outback. After heading back to Malaya after a few years reviving in England after the war, Jean learns of a new possibility that might change her entire future. Now Shute sends Jean on a new adventure without any hope of Noel Strachan’s ever seeing her in England again. The remaining story takes place in Australia and continues to tell of a savvy and progressive woman (for 1950 when Shute wrote this some of the ideas he presents are progressive, such as allowing the women to design the well themselves) who learns to adapt many aspects of her life. I see two heroes in Jean and Joe in this story. Joe’s heroism is reflected in his risks he took to help Jean and the women who were desperate for some relief. However, I also see Jean as a hero herself. She selflessly rose to the challenge of seeing to the well-being of the women and children and became quite an inspiring example of a woman with integrity and strength. I don’t believe that Jean saw herself in this way even though she did save many lives. Jean explains, I only did what anybody could have done. To which is replied, That’s as it may be…The fact is, that you did it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hana

    At midnight on the night of December 8, 1941 men from the 8th Indian brigade stationed in northeastern Malaya came under heavy Japanese bombardment and by December 12 two beachheads and key airport had fallen to the Japanese. With astonishing speed, across jungles the British had wrongly assumed were impenetrable, the Japanese advanced down the Malay peninsula, pushing the British south until, on February 15, 1942, the British were forced to surrender the key southern port city of Singapore to J At midnight on the night of December 8, 1941 men from the 8th Indian brigade stationed in northeastern Malaya came under heavy Japanese bombardment and by December 12 two beachheads and key airport had fallen to the Japanese. With astonishing speed, across jungles the British had wrongly assumed were impenetrable, the Japanese advanced down the Malay peninsula, pushing the British south until, on February 15, 1942, the British were forced to surrender the key southern port city of Singapore to Japan. Malaysia had been an important British colony--source of nearly 40% of the world's rubber and even more of tin. Many of the British elite were evacuated fairly early--here a group of British women take tea on their way to Penang. They were among the lucky ones. Courtesy of Spirit of Malaysia, which has lots of historic photographs and stories about WWII in South Asia. For others--both colonial soldiers, and civilian men and women, the Japanese conquest would mark the start of three years of horror. Many would not survive. A Town Like Alice is the story of two who did survive--through wits, courage and true grit. It is also a story of how those survivors rebuilt their lives, and with equal determination, built a new world on the rugged outback of Australia. At the heart of the story is a young British woman, Jean Paget, born in Malaya who takes up a secretarial post only to find herself caught up in the invasion. Thanks to her language skills and sharp intelligence, Jean becomes the de facto leader of a group of 14 women prisoners and 19 children. Marched from town to town, half would perish of disease and exhaustion. At one desperate juncture, they meet up with two Australian soldiers--also POWs--and one of them, a cheerful and resourceful young man named Joe Harmon risks his life to help the women. For Jean, memories of Joe, of their conversations about Australia, of the food that he steals for the women, and of his ultimate sacrifice haunt her in the years to come. When she inherits a small fortune, Jean returns to Malaya to the village that sheltered her for two years, and ultimately to Australia, in hopes of finding Joe alive. I won't say too much more for fear of spoiling the delights for new readers, but it is in Australia, at a dreadful cattle station on the outback of Queensland, that Jean discovers her true gift as an entrepreneur and pioneer. There's a little bit of romance (there could have been a bit more IMO); lots of great descriptions of Australia in the 1950s and a truly kick-ass heroine--with a great head for business. In the process you'll learn about: Cattle herding on the outback The endless worries about water How to make crocodile shoes And why friendship, humor and hard work are the best foundation for marriage. Buddy Read with Tadiana, February, 2015. Content rating PG for wartime violence, brief scenes of torture, some coarse language and mild sexual content.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    This is a very hard book to categorize or review. I read it almost 2 weeks ago, and have been trying to figure out how to convey it's essence. I won't be able to, but here goes: A Town Like Alice starts off fairly dry, with a narrative by an old English attorney (who will continue to be the narrator of the story). He sets up the premise of why young Jean Paget, our heroine, comes to receive an inheritance. It's the early 1950's, and the old attorney and Jean form a friendship due to the fact that This is a very hard book to categorize or review. I read it almost 2 weeks ago, and have been trying to figure out how to convey it's essence. I won't be able to, but here goes: A Town Like Alice starts off fairly dry, with a narrative by an old English attorney (who will continue to be the narrator of the story). He sets up the premise of why young Jean Paget, our heroine, comes to receive an inheritance. It's the early 1950's, and the old attorney and Jean form a friendship due to the fact that his firm will handle her money until she is 35 years old. This section is kind of dull reading, but then the narrative takes off when a cold, windy rainstorm keeps Jean and the attorney at his home one afternoon, and Jean tells him her story of being a Japanese prisoner of war in Malaya during WWII. She recounts how she survived the death march (which is based on actual events) and met the man of her future dreams: Aussie Joe Harmon. This section of the book I adored SO much. It was 5 star all the way, and I wish it could have continued. However, Jean and Joe's wartime attraction was abruptly brought to and end, and the story fast-forwarded back to 1950's England. The final section of the book dealt with Jean receiving her legacy, and her dream to do something positive with the money to help others. It then focused on her trip to Australia to find Joe, and see for herself if anything could come of their attraction to each other. They reunite, court and marry and live to build up a no-account outback town into "A Town Like Alice" ("Alice" being Alice Springs). Frankly, this section of the book wasn't as good as the Malayan portion. It seemed as if the romance was a little contrived, and I got soooo tired of hearing Joe Harmon exclaim "Oh my word" for the 100th time (don't Aussie cowboys have a more colorful vocab. then that??) In the end, I'm giving this book 3.5 stars because the middle section was excellent, and it carried the weaker sections for me. It's definitely worth reading, and I'm glad I did :)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dem

    A Town like Alice by Nevil Shute. " Nevil Shute's most beloved novel, a tale of love and war, follows its enterprising heroine from the Malayan jungle during World War Two to the rugged Australian outback" Having read the blurb on this novel I was really looking forward to reading this story as it was described as "Entertaining" and "Dramatic" but unfortunately for me I neither found the book Dramatic or entertaining and really could only be pushed to describing it as a pleasant read that is neith A Town like Alice by Nevil Shute. " Nevil Shute's most beloved novel, a tale of love and war, follows its enterprising heroine from the Malayan jungle during World War Two to the rugged Australian outback" Having read the blurb on this novel I was really looking forward to reading this story as it was described as "Entertaining" and "Dramatic" but unfortunately for me I neither found the book Dramatic or entertaining and really could only be pushed to describing it as a pleasant read that is neither exciting or memorable. The problem I had with this Novel was it seemed to be a book of two halfs and while the first half was interesting and very readable the second half was bland and not very believable for me. I found the story dragged and I kept waiting for something to happen to lift the story but it just plodded along until the end. It was like two different authors had written this book and the first had a good imagination and the second lacked the skills of the first and figured the reader had enough excitement for one book. Perhaps I am being a little harsh as it is probably a book of its time and I just didn't gel with it. This is an easy read, the prose is good and while I did not find it riveting or exciting it is very readable and a pleasant story.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    [4+] Once I started this book (via audio), I didn't want to stop. I found any excuse to go for a walk, clean my closet, anything to keep listening! (I have to move or drive during audiobooks). This is an old-fashioned, satisfying novel about a resourceful young woman, her lawyer and the man she loves. I realize this is a book of its times (published in 1950), but was still disappointed at Jean's unquestioning tolerance of the low status of indigenous Australians. Especially after she worked side [4+] Once I started this book (via audio), I didn't want to stop. I found any excuse to go for a walk, clean my closet, anything to keep listening! (I have to move or drive during audiobooks). This is an old-fashioned, satisfying novel about a resourceful young woman, her lawyer and the man she loves. I realize this is a book of its times (published in 1950), but was still disappointed at Jean's unquestioning tolerance of the low status of indigenous Australians. Especially after she worked side by side with Malayans in the paddy field. But still, it is rare for a book to hold me so firmly in its grip.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    ***********Spoiler Alert********** When we first meet Jean Paget , she appears as a quiet, unassuming young woman , who has suddenly inherited a large sum of money. Jean's story gradually unfolds as she tells of the terrible ordeal she suffered through on a death march in Malaya , at the hands of the Japanese during WW II . It is then that we discover that she has guts, heart and smarts . As the story proceeds , we learn just how courageous and savvy , she really is . After going back to Malaya to ***********Spoiler Alert********** When we first meet Jean Paget , she appears as a quiet, unassuming young woman , who has suddenly inherited a large sum of money. Jean's story gradually unfolds as she tells of the terrible ordeal she suffered through on a death march in Malaya , at the hands of the Japanese during WW II . It is then that we discover that she has guts, heart and smarts . As the story proceeds , we learn just how courageous and savvy , she really is . After going back to Malaya to give back to the people of the small village that saved her and a band of other women and children , she goes on to the rough, outback of Australia to the man who helped her on the march and suffered a horrible punishment for it . During the last part of the book , I just couldn't shake the feeling that something bad was going to happen to Jean or Joe . I'm so glad I was wrong . Shute tells us that the death march actually occurred , but in Sumatra , rather than Malaya . This is a wonderful story of courage , perseverance and love . I'm not sure how I got this far without having read a Nevil Shute novel, but I'm glad there are more to read .

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dan Porter

    This is an excellent book about what perseverance and vision can accomplish but most of all it's two love stories - the one between the two main characters of the story and the one in the mere telling of the story. This is an excellent book about what perseverance and vision can accomplish but most of all it's two love stories - the one between the two main characters of the story and the one in the mere telling of the story.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Book Concierge

    Solicitor Noel Strachan tells the story of a young English woman for whom he is trustee. Her uncle left a significant estate, but felt it should remain in trust until her 35th birthday. Jean Paget was born in 1921 in Malaya when her father was employed there after World War I; however she returned to Southampton in 1932 to finish her education. When the elderly uncle dies in 1948, Strachan manages to track her down and over the course of several afternoon teas begins to get to know this remarkab Solicitor Noel Strachan tells the story of a young English woman for whom he is trustee. Her uncle left a significant estate, but felt it should remain in trust until her 35th birthday. Jean Paget was born in 1921 in Malaya when her father was employed there after World War I; however she returned to Southampton in 1932 to finish her education. When the elderly uncle dies in 1948, Strachan manages to track her down and over the course of several afternoon teas begins to get to know this remarkable young woman who is now quite wealthy. In time he learns of her experiences in Malaya during WWII; how she was captured by the Japanese along with other English women and children. Strachan relates her stories of that time period, including the Australian prisoner who helped them when no one else would, and the villagers who risked the wrath of the Japanese by sheltering them. She decides to use some of her inheritance to help these villagers, and so returns to Malaya to have a well dug for them. From there she travels to Australia, and eventually finds a new life. Nevil Shute is a wonderful story teller. I was engaged and interested from page one. Jean Paget is a remarkably strong young woman – brave, intelligent, level-headed, resilient, creative and generous. Her practical approach to the situations she finds herself in helps her not only survive but thrive in conditions that would best many other people. Her uncle may have believed that a young woman has no head for business, but Jean clearly proves him wrong. Not only is she full of ideas for potential enterprises but she is able to outline her business plans to bankers, solicitors and townspeople. The male characters are equally strong here. Noel Strachan is deliberate and cautious in exercising his responsibilities as trustee, but also clearly loves Jean and could not be prouder of her were she his own daughter. Joe Harman is a strong, quiet, resourceful young man who knows what he wants and is willing to work hard to achieve it. His steadfast belief in Jean, and hers in him, forms a solid basis for a strong and loving relationship. I was at first a little put off about the long delay in getting to Australia. But I’m very glad Shute took the time to introduce the young Jean Paget through her experiences in Malaya during the war. I’m even gladder that I read the author’s note at the end of the book, where he explains that while no such events occurred in Malaya, there was a group of Dutch women and children marched all about Sumatra by the Japanese for the very reason that there was no prisoner of war camp equipped to care for them. This historical footnote intrigues me and I’ll have to look for a book about this episode. There is a fair amount of adventure in the story, and some horrific circumstances to be got through. But on the whole it is a quiet tale of a life well-lived. In the last paragraph, Strachan remarks: I have found so much enjoyment in remembering what I have learned in these last years about brave people and strange scenes. I have sat here … dreaming of the blazing sunshine, of poddy dodging and black stockriders, of Cairns and of Green Island. Of a girl that I met forty years too late, and of her life in that small town that I shall never see again, that holds so much of my affection. That’s exactly how I feel about this book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    It’s a love story without any of the mushiness of a romance novel. My kind of story. Written in 1950, Shute heard of the death march of eighty Dutch women prisoners by the Japanese. Although he got many of the facts wrong about the prisoners he wrote a compelling novel, a love story between Jean Paget and Joe Harman. Another man Noel, who loved Jean, narrates the story. The latter half of the book centers on the love story between Jean and Joe and is exquisitely written and well constructed. This It’s a love story without any of the mushiness of a romance novel. My kind of story. Written in 1950, Shute heard of the death march of eighty Dutch women prisoners by the Japanese. Although he got many of the facts wrong about the prisoners he wrote a compelling novel, a love story between Jean Paget and Joe Harman. Another man Noel, who loved Jean, narrates the story. The latter half of the book centers on the love story between Jean and Joe and is exquisitely written and well constructed. This is the least dramatic part of the book but so good. ###### Spoiler below ########## Jean, a young English office worker, is employed near Kuala Lumpur, when the Japanese forces occupy Malaysia and Singapore. She is taken prisoner and forced to walk by the Japanese from town to town. She witnesses many deaths, due primarily to disease and fatigue and eventually stays in a nearby town, occupied by the Japanese, for the remainder of the war. While there she witnesses Joe, an Australian who she had met and is secretly in love, publicly embarrass the Japanese commander over some stolen chickens. She sees Joe tortured and physically crucified and believes him dead. Joe actually survives and after the war Jean hears that Joe actually lived through the ordeal. So Jean travels to and across Australia to find him. They eventually meet up and later become married to the disappointment of the narrator. The rest of the novel is the time they spend on the ranch together in Australia dealing with low stakes cattle rustling. The narrator closes the story with two of the best closing lines that one will find in literature. “I suppose it is because I have lived rather a restricted life myself that I have found so much enjoyment in remembering what I have learned in these last years about brave people and strange scenes ......... Of a girl that I met forty years too late, and of her life in that small town that I shall never see again, that holds so much of my affection.” ####### End of the Spoiler ####### Five star material for sure. it certainly made me pine for the romanticized Australian outback and life of the 1950’s. This is the sign of a really good writer because I’ve never even visited this area of Australia.

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