Hannah's Reviews > A Town Like Alice

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
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Nov 05, 10

bookshelves: 2010-reads, historicals
Read in October, 2010

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 :)
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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Carol Kerry-green Another one of my favourite novels:-) Look forward to seeing your review Hannah


message 2: by Hannah (last edited Oct 16, 2010 11:49AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hannah Really? I didn't know you had read this (I don't think you are currently listed under friend reviews - you might want to add this book to your shelves).

I'm not far into it yet, but I do like what I've read. Wouldn't it be fun to receive a legacy? I think it's funny that Jean's annuity of 900+ pounds/year after taxes was considered a goodly amount! That wouldn't go far in today's economy :(


Carol Kerry-green Yep, I read it before I started on Goodreads, not added it to my books yet; I may have to reread it:-) If you enjoy this, you should try Pied Piper about an old man in France in the early 40s who shepherds several children from France to England during the occupation.


message 4: by Hannah (last edited Oct 16, 2010 11:51AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hannah Sounds good! Hey, we're on at the same time - that doesn't usually happen due to the time difference.


Carol Kerry-green If you ever get chance to watch the BBC adaptation, it's well worth it - it starred Bryan Brown and Helen Morse and was very well done. I'd agree with your review, there are parts of the book that are absolutely brilliant and other bits that were, well, not completely boring, but less interesting than the others:-)


message 6: by Hannah (last edited Nov 03, 2010 10:15AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hannah Carol wrote: "If you ever get chance to watch the BBC adaptation, it's well worth it - it starred Bryan Brown and Helen Morse and was very..."

My main library has a VHS copy of this miniseries, and I've requested it. Hope to watch it soon (Bryan Brown, you say? Yummy) :D

I will certainly read another book by Shute (probably that one you recommended to me: Pied Piper.


Carol Kerry-green Enjoy:-)


message 8: by Pat (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pat "Oh my word" Hannah. Nice review and I have to agree. I got so aggravated hearing that "Oh my word" phrase on nearly every other page that I wanted to get out a magic marker and cross it off the pages in case I ever read it again. Other than that, I thought the descriptions of the march and the Australian outback was really excellent. I had no idea there was a film.


Hannah Pat wrote: ""Oh my word" Hannah. Nice review and I have to agree. I got so aggravated hearing that "Oh my word" phrase on nearly every other page that I wanted to get out a magic marker and cross it off the ..."

Thanks, Pat. I loved the middle section so much - I could have read an entire book based on the war and the march. And yes, why in the world did Shute overwork that phrase for Joe? it about drove me crazy. I like your idea of crossing it out - lol!

As to the movie, there are actually 2 versions. I ordered the more recent (1980's) version from my library, but when I got the VHS tape, it was broken, so I've never seen it. The older version (1960's?) is available on Netflix, but I've yet to watch it.


message 10: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Great review, Hannah. I liked this book and I loved the mini-series. I'm also very fond of Bryan Brown, who is a bit wooden in the acting department, but is a good man. Years ago, he used to donate his time to the youth theatre my daughter was involved with.

I also really like Pied Piper, which I read as a teenager. The film adaptation was one of my mother's favourites, which is probably why I knew about the book and the film when I was in my teens.


Hannah Kim wrote: "Great review, Hannah. I liked this book and I loved the mini-series. I'm also very fond of Bryan Brown, who is a bit wooden in the acting department, but is a good man. Years ago, he used to donate..."

Thanks, Kim. I am so bummed that I wasn't able to watch the Byran Brown version. I've always liked him, too. Used to watch alot of movies with him in it in the 1980's. Good to hear he's a nice person. Is he still married to Rachel Ward? What an attractive couple they were.

I've got Pied Piper on my TBR list, I believe. Think you or another GR friend recommended it way back. One of these days will get back to some Shute. Liked his writing style, apart from the overuse of "oh my word".


Nose-in-a-book You might like The Checkerboard.


Hannah Nose-in-a-book wrote: "You might like The Checkerboard."

Thanks Nose-in-a-book. I'll look into that one. :)


Marianne Oh my word? As far as I'm concerned, this gave it a really authentic feel. This was late forties Australia, Joe was uneducated and yes, they did talk like that all the time. I remember people in the sixtis using those words quite often


Hannah Marianne wrote: "Oh my word? As far as I'm concerned, this gave it a really authentic feel. This was late forties Australia, Joe was uneducated and yes, they did talk like that all the time. I remember people in th..."

It wasn't the phase "oh my word" I objected to as the overuse of it. Too repetitive IMO.


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