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A Town Like Alice
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A Town Like Alice

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  40,812 Ratings  ·  2,806 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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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)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Kathy Adams No one would speak like this these days. You have to accept that it was true for its time but times have changed, and not always for the better.
I…more
No one would speak like this these days. You have to accept that it was true for its time but times have changed, and not always for the better.
I agree that the language used to describe the Aboriginal people was atrocious. Also the names they were give, such as Palm Olive, and Bournville (which was a well known brand of cocoa) - dreadful!(less)
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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
...more
Diane S ☔
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Lawyer
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
Margitte
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
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Lucy
Sep 22, 2008 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
...more
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
...more
Kevin Ansbro
description

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 char
...more
Petra
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Jan-Maat
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
BrokenTune
Nov 26, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
‘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
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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
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Hana
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
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
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Kara
Jan 30, 2009 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.
Dem
Jan 05, 2014 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
...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
Lara Maynard
WWII POWs in Malaya; alligator shoes and ice cream in rural Australia

A 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
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Natalie
Apr 17, 2009 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
...more
Laura
Aug 30, 2010 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.

T
...more
Janet
Oct 20, 2015 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
...more
MaryG2E
Nov 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘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
...more
Tracey
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 wome
...more
Dorcas
Jul 17, 2014 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
...more
MomToKippy
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.
Ellen
Feb 01, 2008 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
...more
Angela M
Sep 16, 2013 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
...more
Trevor
Dec 16, 2014 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
...more
Bettie☯
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
joyce g
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Superb.
Dolors
Mar 20, 2013 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
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21477
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...
“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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“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.”
16 likes
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