A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

Some books make you wonder what made you pick them, while others make you kick yourself for not having read them before. A Town like Alice falls in second category. I got to know of this book from Manju of ‘Of Cabbages and Kings’ on twitter, and it immediately caught my interest.


Jean Paget, a young English woman,in post-war England, comes into an unexpected inheritance. All she wants to do with it, is go to Malaya and build a well. Rather unusual, isn’t it? That’s what the lawyer, Noel Strachan, who was executing the inheritance for her thought as well, until she tells him her story.

She had been twenty years old, working in Malaya when the Japanese invasion began. She is captured along with the other English men and women. The men are sent to prisoner camps, but the Japanese had no prisoner camps for the women, so they were made to March across Malaya, through ill health and deaths. Jean’s courage and ingenuity managed to save some of the group. While on the march, they ran into Australian prisoner, Joe Harman, who paid a rather high price for doing his bit for the women.

A few years later, Jean had been living an ordinary existence in London, working as a typist at a company that made shoes and bags, when the news of the unexpected inheritance reaches her. What she really wants to do is go back to Malaya and do something for the kind villagers whose help kept her and some of her companions alive. She knows how much a well would help them. She knows how diffcult their lives were, having lived their life with them. With the money from the inheritance, she could now, make a difference.

She sets off on her mission, and goes far beyond Malaya. She ends up in Australia, and there again, her ingenuity, determination and courage takes her through a challenge that would have daunted most people. To create a town just like Alice(Alice Springs).

A wonderful story of love, courage and determination. The characters are ones that you connect with. A nice, warm book, where despite the hardships that the characters face, the overwhelming feeling is that of hope. A book that stays with you. A highly recommended read.