Read A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute Online


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, JeanNevil 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....

Title : A Town Like Alice
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781842323007
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 359 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

A Town Like Alice Reviews

  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
    2019-05-21 11:07

    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 villageAfter 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, AustraliaAs 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.

  • Diane S ☔
    2019-04-29 14:16

    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.

  • Lawyer
    2019-05-17 12:01

    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.

  • Margitte
    2019-05-17 11:17

    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.

  • Lucy
    2019-05-13 13:47

    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.

  • Nandakishore Varma
    2019-05-09 13:54

    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.

  • Kevin Ansbro
    2019-05-13 10:01

    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.

  • Petra
    2019-05-17 14:04

    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.

  • Jan-Maat
    2019-04-30 06:11

    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. 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 othersand that segregation is a a sensible response to humans having different skin tonesand that if a white man marries a non-white woman (or meta-white) we should feel sympathy and sorrow for his desperate stateand that a white woman may marry a non-white man if she is catholicand that there is a a self evident and natural division of labour between man the mechanic, and woman the home makerand 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 the supervision of a suitably serious man is still advisableinevitably homosexuals can't operate heavy machinery (assuming any such persons exist outside of medical speculation)and that nature exists to provide us with fancy footwear or briefcasesand inevitably 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 inAn 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. Cultural this is an interesting novel in being I guess an early example of the Australia fascination that led to \TV programmes likeThe Flying Doctors the young flying Doctors,the Sulivans andSkippy the flying kangaroo sludging up daytime TV schedules in the UK in the 70s and 80s to the detriment ofCrown Court andMr Benn , 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 - 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 Miss Paget has no common feeling with the Australian aborginals, 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 and having put on a sarong is soon left bruised by his 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,(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) text 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)]a town like AliceSprings to develop in the 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 - leading us to our current situation.This one I rescued and will now deposit in the paper recycling box for resurrection into some useful paper product.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2019-05-14 10:50

    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.

  • BrokenTune
    2019-05-05 12:57

    ‘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.

  • Hannah
    2019-05-25 07:57

    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 :)

  • Hana
    2019-04-28 06:51

    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 outbackThe endless worries about waterHow to make crocodile shoesAnd 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.

  • Jeanette
    2019-05-22 12:55

    What Nevil Shute may lack in eloquence he makes up for by providing the particulars that bring to life a distant place and time. This is a love story, but not a romance. There's no sex, no sappiness, no gasping or google eyes. Just a lot of hardship, hard work, and, most notably, hope. Jean Paget and Joe Harman meet in Malaya during World War II. She is British, he Australian, and both are prisoners of the Japanese. Joe sacrifices all to provide a little food for Jean's bedraggled group of women and children who have been forced to walk hundreds of miles on meager rations. (Said forced march based on true events that occurred in Sumatra.) The few days Jean and Joe have together lead to an astonishing passel of coincidences six years later. They reconnect in Australia, where Jean uses her ingenuity, determination, and a sizable inheritance to transform a lackluster Queensland settlement into "a town like Alice."Shute really fired my imagination with his portrayal of Australia in the late 1940s. He captures that frontier feeling of newness and possibility for those with vision and stamina, when Australia was still a young country in need of development. He also nails the difficulty of life for people on the cattle stations. Communication was only by radio, and not always reliable. This was essentially a life with no roads or bridges, often no transport except horses, no fruits or vegetables available, no entertainment, extreme heat with no AC, a lot of flooding, and many miles between stations. There must have been a lot of real life people similar to the Jean Paget character who were willing to sink their sweat and their money into the possibility of something finer. I have two criticisms/complaints: 1)Noel Strachan as narrator. This is intrusive and unnecessary and at times downright awkward. Noel is the lawyer who manages Jean's trust in Britain. The convolution involves Noel telling us the story that Jean related to him, with Noel occasionally inserting himself into the narrative. I found it distracting, and there's one place where even Nevil Shute got lost in the unnecessary complication, having Noel refer to himself in the third person rather than "me" or "I." 2)Jean Paget seems to have sprung forth fully formed as this young woman full of grit and determination and leadership abilities far beyond her years. We're told nothing about early life experiences that would have developed those qualities in her. A little back story would have made her a more convincing character.

  • Kara
    2019-05-14 05:59

    Story--great; writing--terrible. That pretty much sums it up for me. The author took interesting characters and concepts and made them as dull as possible by telling it through the eyes of the lawyer. I was constantly frustrated by that feeling of being removed from the characters and the action. I wanted it to be so much more vivid. If this had been written first person from Jean's perspective, it would have made a world of difference.

  • Dem
    2019-05-21 07:10

    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.

  • Book Concierge
    2019-05-11 12:11

    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. She not only is 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.

  • Lara Maynard
    2019-05-25 08:16

    WWII POWs in Malaya; alligator shoes and ice cream in rural AustraliaA Town Like Alice is a "bonza" book (as one of its main characters, Joe Hardman of Australia, would say) about two love stories, two adventures and two remarkable characters inspired by a real-life man and woman who displayed remarkable bravery during WWII. Nevil Shute gives these two people new fictional lives, and as Joe and Jean they are inspirationally resilient as prisoners of war in Japanese-occupied Malaya and afterwards in mid-century outback Australia. This 1995 Reader Digest edition of the classic novel (written in 1949 and first published in 1950) is appropriately mid-century in its aesthetic, including the cover design, mossy green binding and colour illustrations by Benjamin Russell Warner. The brief afterword by Lynne Johnson adds value to the volume.And "Oh my word!" Nevil Shute's use of Queensland vernacular is fascinating, and led me to Ozwords, a blog from the Australian National Dictionary Centre, where I found "Nevil Shute and A Town Like Alice" by by Amanda Laugesen. I recommend checking it out before or after reading A Town Like Alice if you, like me, are a bit of a "wordie" (my own word for someone who like words and language):

  • MomToKippy
    2019-04-29 13:00

    There's nothing like an engineer writing a book. Cool.Here's an image from the 1981 series. I need to write a proper review but thought I'd share this.

  • Natalie
    2019-05-16 10:00

    I tried to describe this book to my husband, and found myself unable to talk about the book without narrating the entire plot, but then backing away from that outline to explain that it wasn't a spoiler because what happens in the book is like the skeleton that the author hangs the depth of the story from. That depth is in the characters and in the modest, yet compelling way the author describes as positive progress the way development can happen and economies can be created out of the will for people to live a better life together, not just for one person, or one family to become wealthy but for a whole community to become a more enjoyable, sustainable place. I loved the narrative voice of the solicitor who's perspective we share as we read of these characters and the mark they made upon the world. A little like the young engineerng manager in No Highway, this solicitor's way of quietly taking his role seriously and doing a good job at doing his job is part of what makes the rest of the story possible. Imagine if he'd been too busy for his client? or imagine if he hadn't taken the time to figure out the whole story of what was really going on? We, the readers (and the rest of the book's society) would have missed out on quite a bit and been a lot worse off! A great read. In some ways rivals richard powers' Gain but Shute's optimism and belief in his fellow human being makes for much more sympathetic characters!

  • Laura
    2019-04-24 11:50

    Page 38:Kuala means the mouth of a river.Page 56:"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."This book was originally published as "The Legacy". This is the story of Jean Paget, a Scottish woman, who was captured together with 80 women and children by the Japanese during World War II in Malaya, when they have been forced to walk through the jungle trails for more than 1200 miles.The narrator of this story is Noel Strachan, the solicitor of Jean's heritage and he must act as her trustee until she completes 35 years old.During the death march, Jean mets an Australian soldier, Joe Harmon also a prisoner of war, who offers to help her and the surviving women and children of this . He pays a high price for this kind of help.Only when the War finishes, Jean and Joe will be able to share their love in the Australian outback in "A town like Alice", a modern town like Alice Springs.This is a very touching story not only during the hard time in the Malaya walk but also during the period of Jean's life in Australia when she put all her effort in order to promote an Australian city in one of the best and modern cities and helping the local population by offering new jobs.According to the author's note, the march and death of the homeless women prisoners happened in Sumatra and thus is based in a true story.

  • Janet
    2019-05-18 06:52

    I was surprised I liked this book so much. It was written in the 1950's and I found it absolutely charming. That should be a genre I think, "charming" books. I'd throw in Parnassus on Wheels and 84 Charing Cross Road.A Town Like Alice is about a young Englishwoman who, after being a prisoner of war for years in Malaysia, inherits some money and sets out to Australia to find the man who tried to help her during the war. It's got a little romance and a lot of adventure. Jean Paget is a strong female protagonist whose name you will immediately forget but her enterprising spirit will stay with you for a long time. The only aspect I would caution against is the references to the aborigines. There is slang and it's evident that the United States is not the only country with a history of segregationist practices and racial divide. When you read it, you have to keep in mind the era when it was written or you may be offended.Other than that, I'd give it 4.5 stars if I could.

  • MaryG2E
    2019-05-25 12:53

    ‘People who spent the war in prison camps have written a lot of books about what a bad time they had,’ [Jean Paget] said quietly, staring into the embers. ‘They don’t know what it was like, not being in a camp.’ (page 70)With this simple statement, the main protagonist of A Town Like Alice hints at the depths of the misery that she and her companions endured while prisoners of the Japanese during WW2 in Malaya. This group of British women and children were subjected to appalling conditions and gross cruelty, as they were forced to march endlessly around the region because the Japanese Imperial Army had no idea what to do with them. Ultimately, thanks to the efforts of their resilient leader, Jean, the wanderers found a permanent place to serve out the duration of the war in a Malay village, where they worked in the paddy fields for their keep.The Author’s Note at the end of the book explains that, although some details have been changed, this story is based on the true experiences of a group of Dutch women and children taken captive and force-marched over 1200 miles for nearly 3 years. Neville Shute’s depiction of the hardships and grief that they experienced, with two-thirds of their company dying along the way, makes for riveting, though heart-wrenching, reading. Certainly there is a sense of great authenticity in Shute’s writing, which suggests that he did a lot of first hand research into the events that took place.The extensive description of Jean’s prisoner-of-war experiences makes up the bulk of the first half of the book. It serves an important role for the remainder of the story in establishing Jean’s personal qualities of determination, fairness, clear-headedness and vision. At the cessation of hostilities, she was repatriated to England and resumed a dull, modest lifestyle as an office worker living in the suburbs. Little did she know that she was about to become a wealthy heiress, thanks to the legacy left to her by a distant uncle.The trustee of the bequest, her solicitor and advisor, Noel Strachan, is the first person narrator of A Town Like Alice, and he tells the story of Jean and her adventures from the contents of her many letters and occasional face-to-face conversations. Noel’s personal commentary sometimes inserts itself into the narrative, while at other times the experiences of Jean in Malaya then Australia unfold in a straight-forward third person account.After the war, Jean returns to Kuala Telang, the village where she and her companions were treated so kindly, and she uses some of her wealth to improve the lives of the women there. I found the author's depiction of the Malay villagers to be very respectful and he portrays Jean as having a great deal of cultural sensitivity to living with and negotiating with these gentle, traditional Muslim men and women. This aspect of Shute’s writing fascinated me, because it stands in sharp contrast to the offensive way in which the Aboriginals of outback Queensland are depicted in the book, reflecting the racial vilification which was so prevalent at that time in Australian society.Following her successful return to Malaya, Jean proceeds to Australia in an attempt to find the Australian soldier who had done so much to help her and her companions in the jungle. She had previously believed Joe Harman, mercilessly flogged and crucified on a tree by the viciously cruel Japanese Colonel, had died of his injuries. Jean had a strong urge to reunite with this man who had made an indelible impression on her. Wanting at the very least to see how he had recovered from his ordeal, and wishing to thank him for his assistance during the war, she secretly harboured vague feelings that she could make a life with this remarkable man. Unknown to her, Joe had gone to England in search of her for precisely the same reasons.The rest of the book follows Jean’s adventures as she and Joe finally reunite, and she goes to live in the remote, soulless settlement of Willstown in the Gulf country, near Normanton, where Joe manages a large cattle station. Willstown has about 50 unmarried men, mainly stockmen on the surrounding stations, and only 2 single women. The pub, flowing with beer, is the only meeting place in town. After a few weeks, Jean divines the reasons why the dusty ghost town is so devoid of human warmth and comfort, and once again she uses her remarkable talents for creating community spirit to improve not only her own circumstances but also those of everyone around her. With the cautious approval of her trustee, she invests a goodly amount of her money to make Willstown a pleasant place to live, so that the young women have jobs, and can stay on in the area to become wives and mothers and participants in their own community. Jean finds a meaningful life for herself and Joe, and her generosity benefits everyone around her, including Noel, who makes the long journey from London to outback Queensland to see the outcomes of his careful stewardship of this remarkable young woman. I don’t think anyone would call Neville Shute a supporter of feminism - the book was written long before the currency of that term. However, he has developed a remarkable character in Jean Paget, a woman who defied the chauvinistic sentiments of a male-privileged society and triumphed over adversity due to her own talents and qualities.I do think nearly everyone would call Neville Shute a racist. The descriptions of the aboriginals are quite atrocious and would never be allowed to go unremarked these days. Sentences like ’’[t]he sensitive, intelligent face of the manager of Carlisle, Eddie Page, who had married his illiterate, inarticulate lubra’ really jarred, as did the constant referral to the indigenous inhabitants as boongs and Abos. There is no doubt that Shute was reflecting the standards of that era, but I found his lack of sensitivity to the aboriginals stood in stark contrast to his compassion for the Muslim Malay villagers of Kuala Telang.I have no desire to defend or justify Shute’s attitudes and values. I see A Town Like Alice as an historical document. It allows us to see what the prejudice was like 65 years ago. I wonder if there was a hierarchy of prejudice, that slotted Malays, Chinese, blacks etc on a ladder, with the Aboriginal people firmly at the bottom.This book was published in 1950 and has remained in print ever since. It is still being read regularly, as demonstrated by the large number of ratings and reviews on this Goodreads page. It was a great read for me, as I enjoyed Shute’s lively writing style. Most particularly I appreciated his creation of a truly terrific female character in Jean Paget.

  • Tracey
    2019-05-20 11:03

    When the opening sentence in a book includes the words "he was riding in the Driffield point-to-point" I can say my interest was piqued! Driffield is about 20 miles from where I live and I know it well. So I started this one with a smile and wondered where we were going...We went a long long way from that small Yorkshire town.. Jean Paget our main protagonist was working in Malaya at the time the Japanese arrived during WW2 . The Japanese army took many prisoners including Jean and 31 other women and children but having no camp for women made them walk all over the country in the blistering heat to find a suitable place...During this time she met Joe Harman an Australian 'ringer (cowboy if you will) ' serving in the army..This is a wonderful story of heroism, far off places, Australia and Malaya, native people, life and death, love and hardship.I cared for the people in this book, the old solicitor Noel Strachan who tells the story is such a lovely, well drawn character too.As well as the afore mentioned Driffield there are also mentions of Hull (where I live) and Goole which again is place near to me...:) If you've not read A town like Alice I highly recommend it... The book is a little dated, in some respects it reads like watching an old black and white film, (which I love) but it doesn't detract from the story...So 5 lovely shiny stars and a place on my 'books I'm passionate about' shelf...

  • Dorcas
    2019-04-25 11:10

    Most of my GR friends really enjoyed this, so please give it a go if you're thinking about it. It didn't ring any bells for me but everyone is different.The storyline is intriguing and I was fully expecting a "love till I die" book but the writing itself ruined it for me. It was just boring. And I actually like slow books, but this was bone dry. Lots of telling but very little showing. Almost like a journal instead of a story. I just didn't care anymore, you know? In the hands of Emma Drummond this would be awesome! For the record, I did give this a good shot, 242 pages. Past the middle (that everyone said was best) and I still wasn't feeling it.By the way, if I never hear the expression "oh my word" again, that'll be just fine by me.

  • Ellen
    2019-05-06 10:49

    I discovered this book through the BBC big read where viewers choose their top 100 novels of all time. I decided that I would make it my goal to read all 100 books as a way to broaden my reading horizons.While this book is an enjoyable read I believe that it hasnt dated that well and is quite racist in parts particularly against the Aboriginal people. Some of the language and terms used tended to jar with me and left me feeling quite uncomfortable. Although written in 1949 I still feel that the blatent racism in the book and the firm belief that the white man is superior in most ways to their African and Aboriginal counterparts is inexcusable.The first section of the book deals with the main characters experience in Malaya during the first world war. This part of the book is actually based on a real woman experience of being taken prisoner of the Japanese during the second world war. As there were no POW camps for women in this area she and a number of other women ended up walking around Malaya for over 1200 miles. This I found to be the most enjoyable and fascinating part of thestory.Unfortunately when the book veers into the telling of the romance that develops from this experience it actually lags and i found the last 150 pages quite difficult to read particularly as this was the section that had the most racism.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-05-13 06:07

    (view spoiler)[Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  • Angela M
    2019-05-13 12:54

    ***********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 .

  • Trevor
    2019-05-08 13:12

    What a great story!!This is the second book by Nevil Shute that I have read, and I loved it. The story of Jean Paget and Joe Harman is told through the eyes of her elderly trustee, Noel Strachan, starting in Malaysia during WWII and ending in northern Queensland in the early 1950's. Told in an unemotional style, the story is touching, funny and very realistic. Both Jean's and Joe's stories are interesting, believable and engaging, and intermixed with Noel's own story drive the narrative along to a conclusion that was not obvious from the very start.I loved this story.

  • joyce g
    2019-05-09 09:03