- Paperback: 359 pages
- Publisher: House of Stratus; New edition edition (18 Sept. 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1842323008
- ISBN-13: 978-1842323007
- Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 20.5 x 2.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 311 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 867,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
A Town Like Alice Paperback – 18 Sep 2000
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The story (is loosely based on a true story of a girl Neville Shute heard about during the war) about a young English girl called Jean Paget, courageous and sensible beyond her years.
Told through the eyes of a solicitor who has dealings with her 6 years after the end of the war.
Caught in Malaya at the start of the war in a group of 30 or so other women (that the Japanese didn't quite know what to do with), but being the only one speaking the language (after a childhood in the country) became the leader!
The ordeals the women faced being marched from one village to the next for 2 years, were awful, their numbers dwindling to half!
Here they eventually met Joe Harman a young Australian soldier who would become a pivotal character in the book. She thought he had died after a horrendous incident, but she never stopped thinking of what had happened to him and her part in it.
When she later discovers that he is alive, she starts on quite another adventure which will change her life beyond imagination.
Jean with her down to earth and courageous attitude comes through.
I could go on and on letting the whole story out of the bag and spoiling it for you. You really have to read the book, it is marvellous.
Jean lives through hardships and heartbreak that would and did kill a lot of people, but her courage, kindness, her sense of fairness and her never say die attitude will have you hooked.
Fantastic story which will be going onto my favourites list.
Narrated by Noel Strachan, a London based solicitor, he starts off our tale as he looks for the whereabouts of a benefactor to a will. However as he can only find that person’s sister so she is in line to inherit monies. This part takes place a few years after the War, and then we are taken back to the war days with Jean Paget, Strachan’s now new client. We thus follow Jean and other women and children as they spend a surreal war, being initially made to walk around and around Malaya, until at last they manage to come to some sort of agreement and stay at a village. This is actually based on a true story, but in real life it was Dutch women and children in neighbouring Sumatra.
After this we are taken back to the period this started off in, and we follow Jean as she sets out with an idea for a ‘gift’ to those who she and others stayed with in Malaya in the village during the War. Then she travels onto Australia, in search of Joe Harman, who she was assisted by in the wartime period a few times, and who she thought was dead.
This then has a number of themes, with Jean Paget being a woman ahead of her time, with her entrepreneurial acumen and the reliance on her own common sense, which means that she breaks certain taboos of the time, giving the women around her a certain sense of emancipation. It is Jean that really holds us in this book, what with the wartime part, and then her yearning to find Joe and to settle down.
With all the different elements coming together, Shute certainly showed off his storytelling talents with this book, which has always remained somewhat popular, and is still a joy to read.
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