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A Town Like Alice

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  36,461 Ratings  ·  2,491 Reviews
"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....

From the Paperback edition.
ebook, 262 pages
Published February 9th 2010 by Vintage (first published 1950)
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Theresa I know it's been a while since this questions was asked, but just in case anyone else is interested in knowing...I agree with all the others. The 1981…moreI know it's been a while since this questions was asked, but just in case anyone else is interested in knowing...I agree with all the others. The 1981 mini series with Bryan Brown is fabulous. Was lucky enough to get a used copy of the video from a close out sale at blockbuster many years ago. Worth so much more than the 99 cents I paid for it!(less)
Sameera77 Yes, the 1981 TV series title was the same as the book one, A Town Like Alice. There is also a 1956 film adaptation under the same title.
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Community Reviews

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Feb 22, 2008 Ellen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ellen by: BBC Big Reads
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
I have never recommended this book to anyone who didn't absolutely love it and put it on their favorite list. It is very well written with an interesting plot and good love story.

A story of a young woman who inherits some money. The story is told from the attorney who manages her estate. She tells him about her experiences in Singapore during the war when the Japanese invade the English colony where she was just a young woman who was there working temporarily. There is nothing very special abou
Jul 03, 2008 Jenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book! I saw the movie years ago at my grandma's house & fell in love with it. I couldn't forget it & decided to finally read the book. I loved it, too! Though it's not a true story, the POW experience of the women is taken from a true story in Sumatra. I love the characters from this book & the main character is a strong, confident, smart, yet feminine woman. The only thing that really bothered me in this book is the rascist treatment of the Aborigines. Since ...more
Feb 05, 2009 Lucy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Jan 30, 2009 Kara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 18, 2009 Natalie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 12, 2015 Maureen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
a piece of historical fiction that always seems to be on british "must read all-time" fiction lists, i thought since i enjoyed on the beach so much that i should try another by nevil shute. this book was not as engaging for me as on the beach, probably because it isn't post-apocalyptic.

the book is told by an english lawyer who finds the heir to a trust, a young woman who has already had a lifetime of experience living out the second world war in malaysia, under japanese occupancy. the bulk of t
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Sep 30, 2011 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all Shute fans
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.

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
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

Considered a classic and one of the top 100 of all time, I can totally understand why, even if I don't completely agree. This is a rather quiet yet moving story taken from the real life experience of a young woman during WWII who was captured and spent two years as a POW in Asia participating in the woman's version of the long walk, her life after and the love she finds amidst the horror. It's very interesting, if not riveting. It slows considerably after her war experience, however, stil
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
Mar 23, 2012 Olivia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was hard to decide what to rate this book, as there is a variation between the quality of the storyline (amazing)and the way it is told (very wordy and formal). Also as I had seen the mini-series (and LOVED it) before I read the book, I think my enjoyment was coloured by that. The mini-series is a wonderfully accurate depiction of the book, but if I'd never seen it (and thus had an idea what the story was about), I'm not sure if I would have enjoyed the book as much.

The basis of A Town Like A
19/7 - This was written in 1950, it uses language common to 1950. These facts have to be remembered when reading A Town like Alice, and reacting to said language. The characters use words like 'Abos', 'Nips', 'Boongs', and other offensive names for the indigenous people of Malaya and Australia, and the invading Japanese forces. This type of language makes me feel uncomfortable while reading the book, but at the same time I accept that this was simply the way people talked in those days. So, if I ...more
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.
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
Mar 20, 2013 Dolors rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
The story about an ordinary extraordinary woman, Jean Paget, who was held prisoner together with 30 British women and children in Malaya by the Japanese during the Second World War. As there wasn't any camp for them, the Japanese kept them walking from village to village without knowing what to do with them, provoking the death of more than half of the party due to exhaustion, bad nutrition and tropical diseases. Their luck changes when they meet an Australian prisoner named Joe Harman who stole ...more
Angela M
Jan 23, 2014 Angela M rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
***********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
Sep 16, 2014 Dem rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 09, 2016 Dorcas marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
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 t
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 ...more
Jul 08, 2015 MaryG2E rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-loved
‘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 g
Jan 01, 2016 Trevor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nandakishore Varma
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
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
Oct 30, 2015 Janet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 fema
Saoirse Sterling
Read as part of the #InfiniteVariety2016 Reading Challenge based on the BBC's Big Read poll.

This was a book with a good premise but terrible execution. The main problem was the narration: we had a first-person narrative, but even when it slipped in to third-person narrative, it would still be the first-person narrator speaking. Confusing? Yes, indeed. That was the whole problem with the book.

It lacked the pace that the storyline demanded. A fairly simple tale, really, of a woman who spent time a
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 female cha
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). 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 ideolog ...more
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Nevil Shute Norway was a popular British novelist and a successful aeronautical engineer.

He used Nevil Shute as his pen name, and his full name in his engineering career, in order to protect his engineering career from any potential negative publicity in connection with his novels.

He lived in Australia for the ten years before his death.
More about Nevil Shute...

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“I know you've taken risks to do these things. Do Please be careful."
"Don't worry about me," he said. "You've got enough troubles on your own plate, my word. But we'll come out all right, so long as we just keep alive, that's all we got to do. Just keep alive another two years, till the war's over.”
“She looked at him in wonder. "Do people think of me like that? I only did what anybody could have done."
"That's as it may be," he replied. "The fact is, that you did it.”
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