A Town Like Alice

What would you give a bookworm that is about to emigrate to Australia? A novel where the story (partly) takes place in Australia haha.

I did receive A Town like Alice from a dear (old) colleague during my farewell drink. I had quit my job quite suddenly. A job I absolutely loved and with a heavy heart I had handed over my resignation letter. But why? For love….

This book is also about love, but don’t expect a sweet story. On the contrary.

A Town like Alice tells the story of the British Jean Paget. She works as an expat in Malaysia when the Second World War starts. Jean is captured by the Japanese with a large group of women and children. The Japanese actually don’t know what to do with this group. So, they have to walk from village to village, but can’t stay anywhere long. The journeys through the jungle are ruthless. There is not enough food, water, medicine. Jean is always positive, creative and a big support for the group. However, she can’t prevent many women and children from dying under the harsh conditions.

You might think right now…..didn’t you just tell me this book was about love instead of the horrors of war? True. Jean and her group receive help from a man called Joe. An Australian, who is not afraid of anything. Joe worked as a stockman near Alice Springs and tells Jean how beautiful the place is. Jean is very fond of Joe. However, he thinks she is married because she looks after one of the orphans. In order not to complicate the situation, Jean leaves him to believe that. Yet Jean and Joe develop a close bond, but in the end they lose each other.

After the war, Jean returns to the United Kingdom. There she discovers that a distant uncle left her an inheritance. Jean goes back to Malaysia and she also wants to visit Australia. Alice Springs. She wants to invest the money from her inheritance in good causes and the people who helped her in the war.

A Town like Alice was published in 1950. It immediately gives the context in which you have to read this story. For example, Jean can’t manage her inheritance herself, but is supervised by a solicitor. The author of this book is also very disdainful about Aboriginals. You can say that the writer was a racist, but I fear that it fitted more into the spirit of the times. However, Nevil Shute writes open-minded about faith and feminism.

Because this book is relatively old, it is probably not available in any bookstore. And that is a shame, because the story is shocking, compelling and moving. Nevil Shute describes various elements of true stories into an extraordinary  novel. A book about hope, decisiveness, adventure and of course about love.

Buy your copy via The Bookdepository by clicking here. Or order the book via Amazon and click on the book below.

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