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A Town Like Alice (1950)

by Nevil Shute

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,2181243,058 (4.05)414
"A tale of love and war, follows its enterprising heroine from Malayan jungle during World War II to the rugged Australian outback." -- Cover, p.4.
  1. 00
    Evidence Not Seen: A Woman's Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II by Darlene Deibler Rose (CherylLonski)
    CherylLonski: One is a work of fiction, the other is a biographical account. One author is male, the other female. One British, one American. Yet the stories intersect in interesting ways in their telling of a painful time in world history.
  2. 00
    The Promise of Rain by Donna Milner (jayne_charles)
    jayne_charles: More POW hell
  3. 00
    In the Wet by Nevil Shute (Booksloth)
  4. 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 414 mentions

English (119)  Danish (4)  German (1)  All languages (124)
Showing 1-5 of 119 (next | show all)
This is closer to a 3.5 but I really, really liked the first half so I'm rating up instead of down. The first half is this harrowing description of these women and children trekking all over Malaya during WWII because the Japanese soldiers who occupied the country didn't know what to do with them so they kept passing them off to other military installations in the vague notion that eventually they'd be placed in a prison camp for women. It's a dark part of the book but I was struck by how the author described Jean's interactions with the Malay people and even with some of the Japanese soldiers that the women got to know better through their marches. It felt surprisingly progressive for the time to me but that dove-tailed into the second half of the book where the romance plot took over and Jean was eventually canonized as the savior of this small Australian town. That section was much less interesting and felt kinda relentlessly racist in a way that was probably pretty accurate to the time but still wasn't fun to read compared to the more nuanced interactions in the first half. I don't know, it's a pretty uneven book but I enjoy the way that Shute writes and I'm interested in reading more from him. ( )
  jobinsonlis | May 11, 2021 |
Interesting slice of WWII, a tale of a woman POW in Malaysia. After the war scene is the remote outback of Australia. Rare combination of settings, and interesting story makes for quick, gripping read. ( )
  curious_squid | Apr 5, 2021 |
I enjoyed this historical novel written only a few years after its setting in post WWII British Empire.

The main character, Jean, is spirited and I enjoyed following her story.

Her love interest is a little more removed and somewhat hard to picture. He does indeed use the phrase, "Oh my word," far too many times.

The use of the English solicitor in charge of Jean's trust fund to voice the story was interesting. I think the "perfectness" of the main character is the result of the storyteller being in love with her. It did provide an additional interesting element to the story.

As with all period pieces the colonialism and racism is a little bothersome, The novel actually reads as two different stories and while I enjoyed each one, they are very distinct and do not form a coherent single story in my mind.

All in all , an enjoyable read that made me want to know more about Australian history and the Outback. ( )
  ColourfulThreads | Feb 18, 2021 |
I loved Jean Paget and the narrator, Noel. I think it would be great for everyone to have a nice lawyer like that. ( )
  FurbyKirby | Jan 5, 2021 |
In post World War II England Jean Paget is tracked down by a solicitor. She is the only surviving member of a client of his, and so stands to inherit his wealth. But because the client didn’t trust single women to run their own finances the will stipulates that Jean is not to receive the full amount, she will get a monthly allowance until she turns thirty five and is old enough to manage herself. Until then Noel will manage the trustfund for her.

Noel finds Jean working as a typist in a leather goods company. He soon learns a lot about her, and the story flashbacks to when she was in British Malaya during the war and what happened to her there as a prisoner of war.

The book is told from the point of view of Noel, the solicitor. And this works well, at first. He related how he tracks down Jean, and the history of the family. And after they get to know each other a little he tells the reader her story, as she told him. And I really liked the first half of the story. Jean’s story is one of just trying to get on with life, no matter the circumstances. She doesn’t see herself as a hero or anyone especially outstanding. She simply made the most of some terrible conditions. But she is still haunted by that past, and by the events she witnessed. In particular what happened to an Australian who tried to help her, and the other women, out.

Unfortunately once she got to Australia I wasn’t as gripped by the book. It is well told and I did like all the characters, but it just tailed off a little too much into a “this happened, and then this happened” sort of a thing. There were parts that I still enjoyed and liked though, so I wouldn’t let that put me off.

One word of caution, it was written in the 1950s, and it is very much a book of that time, so it is slightly dated and sexist and racist. But if you can get over that it is an enjoyable read, and he is an author that I could read more of. I really enjoyed the slow, but never ponderous, way the story unfolded. And although I had a couple of minor problems with how Noel knew all the little details of Jean’s life, I really liked him as a narrator. He was a great character, utterly normal and predictable. Lucky that the book I borrowed from the library is three collected novels then isn’t it :) ( )
  Fence | Jan 5, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 119 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (30 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nevil Shuteprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bailey, RobinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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)
[Introduction] I was born in 1919.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Disambiguation notice
"A Town Like Alice" was originally published as "The Legacy".
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"A tale of love and war, follows its enterprising heroine from Malayan jungle during World War II to the rugged Australian outback." -- Cover, p.4.

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Average: (4.05)
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