A Town Like Alice

A Town Like Alice

4.15 (50,194 ratings by Goodreads)
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'Probably more people have shed tears over the last page of A Town Like Alice than about any other novel in the English language... remarkable' Guardian

Jean Paget is just twenty years old and working in Malaya when the Japanese invasion begins.

When she is captured she joins a group of other European women and children whom the Japanese force to march for miles through the jungle - an experience that leads to the deaths of many.

Due to her courageous spirit and ability to speak Malay, Jean takes on the role of leader of the sorry gaggle of prisoners and many end up owing their lives to her indomitable spirit. While on the march, the group run into some Australian prisoners, one of whom, Joe Harman, helps them steal some food, and is horrifically punished by the Japanese as a result.

After the war, Jean tracks Joe down in Australia and together they begin to dream of surmounting the past and transforming his one-horse outback town into a thriving community like Alice Springs...

With an introduction by Eric Lomax, author of The Railway Man
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Product details

  • Paperback | 368 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 23mm | 255g
  • Vintage Classics
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0099530260
  • 9780099530268
  • 95,848

Review Text

A heart-rending tale of torture, human fortitude and forbearance, inhumanity and hardship
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Review quote

That supreme storyteller, Nevil Shute...I could hardly bear to put the book down. I read it voraciously for days -- May Lovell * The Times * A heart-rending tale of torture, human fortitude and forbearance, inhumanity and hardship * Sunday Times * A ripping tale of budding romance and grace under pressure * The Times * A Town like Alice is the most romantic book I've ever read...Jean's determination to survive is inspirational, and the love she finds later is beautiful -- Catherine Tate * Mail on Sunday * This direct, simply told story is about honest, dogged virtues, at least as redolent of its era as street parties or 'We'll Meet Again' * The Times *
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About Nevil Shute

Nevil Shute was born on 17 January 1899 in Ealing, London. After attending the Dragon School and Shrewsbury School, he studied Engineering Science at Balliol College, Oxford. He worked as an aeronautical engineer and published his first novel, Marazan, in 1926. In 1931 he married Frances Mary Heaton and they went on to have two daughters. During the Second World War he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve where he worked on developing secret weapons. After the war he continued to write and settled in Australia where he lived until his death on 12 January 1960. His most celebrated novels include Pied Piper (1942), No Highway (1948), A Town Like Alice (1950) and On the Beach (1957).
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Rating details

50,194 ratings
4.15 out of 5 stars
5 40% (20,310)
4 38% (19,197)
3 18% (8,801)
2 3% (1,454)
1 1% (432)

Our customer reviews

A Town Like Alice is the fourteenth novel by British author, Nevil Shute. The story centres on a young Englishwoman, Jean Paget, and her experiences during World War Two in Malaya and later in the north of Australia. The story is narrated by Noel Starchan, an English solicitor who is looking after a legacy left in trust to Jean by her Scottish uncle (the alternate title for this book is The Legacy). Jean is part of a group of women who are taken prisoner by the Japanese in Malaya and forced to march across the country as successive Japanese commanders refuse to accept responsibility for them. When they near the east coast, they happen upon some Australian prisoners driving trucks for the Japanese. As well as procuring food, soap and medicines for the women, Joe Harman tells Jean of his country, in particular the town of Alice Springs. Shute builds his story slowly and carefully; his characters have depth and appeal; his dialogue lends an authenticity that will resonate with older Australians (especially Joe's use of bonza and my word). There was horror and heartache, but also humour and incredible kindness. I reread this book because I borrowed the Peter Finch movie version from the library and wanted to refresh my memory. A great read.show more
by Marianne Vincent
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