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A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
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A Town Like Alice (1950)

by Nevil Shute

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MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,698992,197 (4.06)343
  1. 00
    The Promise of Rain by Donna Milner (jayne_charles)
    jayne_charles: More POW hell
  2. 00
    In the Wet by Nevil Shute (Booksloth)
  3. 00
    The Flamboya Tree: Memories of a Mother's Wartime Courage by Clara Kelly (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Though fiction, the war experiences of Jean Padgett are based in fact from the Island of Sumatra, and gives a good view of what was going on on other islands in the Pacific.
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» See also 343 mentions

English (93)  Danish (4)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All (99)
Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)
I absolutely loved this book, it captured my imagination, so much I could hardly put it down, minutes all of a sudden became hours as I read it!
The story (is loosely based on a true story of a girl Neville Shute heard about during the war) about a young English girl called Jean Paget, courageous and sensible beyond her years.
Told through the eyes of a solicitor who has dealings with her 6 years after the end of the war.
Caught in Malaya at the start of the war in a group of 30 or so other women (that the Japanese didn't quite know what to do with), but being the only one speaking the language (after a childhood in the country) became the leader!
The ordeals the women faced being marched from one village to the next for 2 years, were awful, their numbers dwindling to half!
Here they eventually met Joe Harman a young Australian soldier who would become a pivotal character in the book. She thought he had died after a horrendous incident, but she never stopped thinking of what had happened to him and her part in it.
When she later discovers that he is alive, she starts on quite another adventure which will change her life beyond imagination.
Jean with her down to earth and courageous attitude comes through.
I could go on and on letting the whole story out of the bag and spoiling it for you. You really have to read the book, it is marvellous.
Jean lives through hardships and heartbreak that would and did kill a lot of people, but her courage, kindness, her sense of fairness and her never say die attitude will have you hooked.
Fantastic story which will be going onto my favourites list. ( )
  Glorybe1 | Sep 24, 2017 |
The character of Jean Paget is inspiring because she finds a way to make things better for people, be it in a small kampong in Malaysia or an outback town in Australia. She becomes a local hero in both places. I'm mentally subtitling this as "Life of a Pioneer Woman".

It's just too bad the details of life on a ranch did not interest me, so I skimmed through those. Also the part where they were lovey-dovey. And lots of parts narrated by the Noel character. About a third of this book bored me. In the rest of it though I admired Jean's spirit. If it were me I'd be whinging within a few days, then considering suicide. So I'll try to channel her energies when it's my turn to move to a podunk town, which, incidentally, is in Malaysia. ( )
  mrsrobin | Jun 24, 2017 |
This is similar to author Shute's Trustee from the Toolroom in presenting an adventure that spans half the globe and better for having a heroic character like Joe Harman. Oh, and an empowered heroine like Jean Paget, but mostly it's better because of Joe. Another plus for this is the bittersweet triangle with the story's narrator who met Jean forty years too late.

The book begins in England, jumps to a backstory in Japanese occupied Malaya during WWII, briefly returns to Malaya after the war and then moves on to Australia. The cruelty to POWs during wartime was pivotal to the storyline but the racism in post-war Australia contributed nothing. I guess it was faithful to the sensibilities of 1950, when this was first published, but it was still distracting. ( )
  wandaly | Feb 2, 2017 |
Review: A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. 4*

It’s a fascinating smooth story. The story didn’t keep the reader on the edge of their seat but it was a sweet mellow reading. This novel was well written with a great plot and the thoughtfulness of a great woman to read about. The story about the WWII and what several women went through was sad but the author still created a charming main character named Jean Paget who marched over 1200 miles and became a caring and thoughtful person because of it. Plus, the Japanese soldiers had troubles of their own not knowing what to do with the captured women and children. They just kept marching them from one town to the next because they had no prison for women. The male main character, Joe Harmon was a prisoner too who worked on the roads for the Japanese and got to meet Jean and some of the other women. Not long after meeting Jean he took a risk finding the women some food and got tied-up and brutally punished by his captor’s.

The second part of the story the author wrote about Jean Paget after the war. After several years as a prisoner she finally moved on and settled in England as a typist for a shoe company. She never knew she had any family to go home to until one day a London lawyer, Noel Strachan contacted her and explained to her about an elderly Scottish gentleman related to her died and left her a very large inheritance. The account had clauses attached to how she was supposed to get the money. The Lawyer Strachan would be her trustee, giving her money monthly to live on until she turned thirty-five and then she would take over her own account.

Jean took a few days to finally understand that she would never have to work again. Her intuitive inner self and unforgotten memories didn’t take long for her to want to head back to a small village in Malaya where the women prisoners spent their last two years. She wanted to have a well built right in the middle of the village so the women of the village wouldn’t have to walk miles to get water. There are many small villages throughout the Outback of Australia. She also remembers that was near the area where Joe Harmon said he was from. She thought maybe she would visit his town and see if his description of different areas were as bad as he told her and also to go to the Town of Alice that he described so vividly. Meantime the story goes on with what kind of life Jean was making for herself and all she did in Australia and what her final destination includes…. ( )
  Juan-banjo | Jan 24, 2017 |
This is a lovely story about Jean Paget, an ordinary typist working for a London company that makes shoes and handbags. One days she is contacted by Noel Strachan, a lawyer for an uncle Jean hasn't seen since she was 11. As the only surviving relative she inherits a fortune, held in trust by Mr. Strachan. Strachan takes a great fondness to Jean and spends a good deal of time with her as the details of probate are resolved. Finally she shares with him her story of being captured by the Japanese in Malay during the war. She and a group of women and children are shunted throughout the country because none of the Japanese want to be responsible for their care and feeding. As they march from village to village over a period of months many of the group are lost to exhaustion and disease as their tiny cache of food and medicines are used up. At one point they meet some Australian mechanics who are also prisoners of the Japanese. These men do their best to connive to get them the food and medicine they so desperately need. Unfortunately Joe Harman, to whom Jean has become close, is caught and killed for stealing. The group of women and children are forced to watch the cruelty and then sent again on their interminable journey. Finally they arrive at a village and Jean is able to work out a plan for the women to remain and work for their keep. There they remained safely for three years, until the war's end. Jean has decided she wants to return to the Malay village and use some of her inheritance to help those who helped them survive. While there, she learns that the Australian did not die after all. What follows is first Jean and Joe's search for one another, and then the transformation of an entire Australian region due to the good heart of a simple woman willing to spend her money for the good of others. The story is told by Noel Strachan who admits to himself that he's a little in love with Jean, despite the 50 year age difference.

I found this book satisfying on every level. The story of the Malay trek was fascinating (and based on a true story that took place elsewhere), the love story sweet and touching, and Jean was an average woman who through kindness and determination touched the lives of those around her. ( )
  LeslieHurd | Jan 11, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nevil Shuteprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hunt, NeilNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face. — W. B. Yeats
Dedication
First words
James MacFadden died in March 1905 when he was forty-seven years old; he was riding in the Driffield Point-to-Point.
On the publication of this book I expect to be accused of falsifying history, especially in regard to the march and death of the homeless women prisoners. (Author's Note)
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"A Town Like Alice" was originally published as "The Legacy".
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345353749, Mass Market Paperback)

"A harrowing, exciting, and in the end very satisfying war romance."
HARPER'S
A TOWN LIKE ALICE tells of a young woman who miraculously survived a Japanese "death march" in World War II, and of an Australian soldier, also a prisoner of war, who offered to help her--even at the cost of his life....

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:23 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A novel told partly in flashbacks about a girl's search for the Australian she met in Malaya during World War II. "A harrowing, exciting, and in the end very satisfying war romance. A Town Like Alice tells of a young woman who miraculously survived a Japanese "death march" in World War II, and of an Australian soldier, also a prisoner of war, who offered to help her--even at the cost of his life.… (more)

» see all 10 descriptions

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