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A Town Like Alice
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A Town Like Alice

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  25,964 ratings  ·  1,895 reviews
"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....


From the Paperback edition.
ebook, 262 pages
Published February 9th 2010 by Vintage (first published 1950)
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Lucy
A Town Like Alice reminds me so much of my favorite book, Mrs. Mike. Both catalog the difficulties and triumphs of living in remote areas. Both are historical. Both have a strong and engaging female protagonist who are in love with a man responsibly tied to a piece of land. Neither are fluffy Harlequins but make that pit in the bottom of your stomach churn with romance.

In short, I loved it. A Town Like Alice follows Jean Paget, a Scottish woman who was raised by her parents in Malay (now known a...more
Hannah
This is a very hard book to categorize or review. I read it almost 2 weeks ago, and have been trying to figure out how to convey it's essence. I won't be able to, but here goes:

A Town Like Alice starts off fairly dry, with a narrative by an old English attorney (who will continue to be the narrator of the story). He sets up the premise of why young Jean Paget, our heroine, comes to receive an inheritance. It's the early 1950's, and the old attorney and Jean form a friendship due to the fact that...more
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...more
Mike
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...more
Kara
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
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...more
Natalie
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...more
Ellen
Feb 22, 2008 Ellen rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Dottie
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...more
Jenny
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
TJ
3.5/5.0

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...more
Angela
***********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...more
Olivia
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...more
Lucy
Aug 16, 2007 Lucy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers interested in WWII history, Australia, entreprenurial women,
This latest reading was my fourth time with this story. I have read it, listened to it, and seen a movie of it. Every time I enjoy it again on so many levels.
It is based on a real part of WWII history in which British women prisoners were marched under Japanese guard for months. The female lead character, Jean Pargeter, used her wits to stay alive and help others as well. Later on, after she was free again, she used her wits again to transform her adopted home, Willstown, into a "bonzer town" as...more
Sarah
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
Laura
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.

T...more
Donna
This was such an endearing story. I loved the characters and wanted to see what was going to happen next. I was pulled in from the beginning. But here is the question I pondered quite a bit. I kept wondering why I liked this book so much since it abused one of my major pet peeves ... it told the story and didn’t show it. I was hard pressed to find adjectives of any kind. I mean, people would get sick and die all in two sentences. As a matter of fact, now that I think about it, most things that h...more
Book Concierge
Solicitor Noel Strachan tells the story of a young English woman for whom he is trustee. Her uncle left a significant estate, but felt it should remain in trust until her 35th birthday. Jean Paget was born in 1921 in Malaya when her father was employed there after World War I; however she returned to Southampton in 1932 to finish her education. When the elderly uncle dies in 1948, Strachan manages to track her down and over the course of several afternoon teas begins to get to know this remarkab...more
Nancy Oakes
The story, narrated by an attorney named Noel Strachan, begins in 1948 with the death of one Douglas Macfadden of Scotland. Mr. Macfadden was quite wealthy and had decided to leave his fortune to his sister, and if she died, in trust for her son. However, when Mr. Macfadden passed away, only one relative was left, and that was his sister's daughter, Jean Paget. Because Macfadden did not trust women to have any sort of good business sense, he had put in his will that if both his sister and her so...more
Maureen
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...more
Mikejencostanzo
When an author, artist or playwright takes in hand to tackle the theme of World War II, the result is always deep, often frightening, usually moving, and only sometimes ending in hope.

So, what makes a happy ending when our topic is war? So many of the war novels & biographies I've read take the reader through the war, and wrap up with an ending of hope just as V-day comes or the troops arrive to rescue the POWs. After a brief denouement, the reader is ushered away from the scene with a vague...more
Julie
This book was pretty good for awhile. Then some of the plot line began to annoy me. I am about to describe it, so if you don’t want to know, stop reading.

The first half of the book describes an English woman’s experiences as a prisoner of war in British Malaya during WWII. She, along with a group of other women and children, are forced to walk from place to place for many months (10+ miles a day) throughout the country with some Japanese guards and battle hunger and sickness and death. She shows...more
Ida Marie Heggem
Completely mesmerizing! One of the best novels I have ever read! Fascinating and intriguing from beginning to end. The vivid and detailed descriptions creates picturesque environments for the story to take place, from buzzing London to beautiful Malaysia and the magnificent landscapes of Australia.

Based on a true story that took place during the second world war, a group of women with their children are forced to walk across entire Malaysia because none of the Japanese officers want the trouble...more
Angela
'A Town Like Alice' is constructed with the most unpretentious writing I have ever encountered. It is simple, readable, and completely engrossing. Using a strong female lead and a rugged Aussie rancher, Shute bonds this pair of foreigners in tense and tragic circumstances, to be united once more in a barren land unfamiliar to the heroine, Jean.

Nevil paints a fascinating and honest picture of the Australian outback and the attitudes that mark our racial and economic history. When the two charact...more
Melinda Van Komen
This was (mostly) a fun read. The beginning is a bit rough -- the heroine was part of a group of English women and children stranded in Malaysia when the Japanese invaded during WWII. They had nowhere to go, and endured tremendous hardship during the war years.

As the novel progresses, though, the plot turns to a very satisfying love story.

It was written in the 1950s, so some of the language and attitudes are dated.

The protagonist is intelligent, kind and hard-working. And, as my sister said,...more
Amie
What an excellent read. I enjoyed the narration of the story. It is told by an older man who is a solicitor in London. He tells the story in a matter of fact way but is not left without emotion. I can't believe all that happened in this relatively short story. It did not seemed rushed. The characters were very likable and heroic. My sister in law Erin gave me this book to read. Thank you again for another great book. She said that it is not in print anymore, but I will try to track down a copy....more
Katie Grainger
A Town Like Alice is a brilliant and touching story. Set in the Second World War, our heroine Miss Jean Paget is in Malay when the Japanese invade, she is captured and with a group of other married women she is marched across the country. As members of the group begin to die Jean becomes the unofficial leader trying to keep the members of the party alive. When Jean meets Joe Harman, an Australian who is also a prisoner of war they form a bond which is quickly cut short. Jean manages to get the g...more
Leslie
This book by Nevil Shute makes several of the "best books of all time" lists. I had never heard of it, but added it to my list and randomly pulled it it off the shelf one day. It's good. I don't know that I would put it near the top of my favorite books list, but it's good.

The book is hard to explain. It's almost like a series of short stories that are connected by one main character. It follows Jean Paget through London where she receives an inheritance, through Malaysia during the war where sh...more
Dave
This felt like I was reading a really good black and white movie. It is much more enjoyable reading a good story, rather than the "I never saw that coming" books that are so popular today.

This story is basically a love story and a celebration of a woman with a lot of strength and character; a topic that maybe wasn't as well explored in the late 40's as it is today. What made this story more interesting than today's exploration is that this woman, Jean Paget, while doing extraordinary things, is...more
Adam
This book was suggested by Maria Bustillos in a stinging article on Ayn Rand as a better version Atlas Shrugged. Like Atlas Shrugged, the hero is a woman who puts hard work and capital to use building businesses that employ and elevate the other characters of the story. The similarities end there. There are no struggles between rich and poor or, as Rand put it, “creators” and “moochers”; no cartoon-like heroes spun from the fantasy of someone thoroughly dissatisfied with everyone but herself; an...more
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Something Old, So...: February 2014 - A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute 2 13 Jan 28, 2014 07:20AM  
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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...
On the Beach Trustee from the Toolroom Pied Piper The Far Country Requiem for a Wren

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“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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“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.”
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