Femme Friday: A Town Like Alice

Posted 24 January, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Femme Friday: A Town Like AliceA Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fiction, General, Historical
Pages: 351

Jean Paget, a young Englishwoman living in Malaya, is captured by the invading Japanese and forced on a brutal seven-month death march with dozens of other women and children. A few years after the war, Jean is back in England, the nightmare behind her. However, an unexpected inheritance inspires her to return to Malaya to give something back to the villagers who saved her life. Jean travels leads her to a desolate Australian outpost called Willstown, where she finds a challenge that will draw on all the resourcefulness and spirit that carried her through her war-time ordeals.

I was pleasantly surprised with A Town Like Alice. I was a little afraid to pick it up because I love On the Beach so much, and I knew that this was going to be a completely different type of novel.

 Different it was, but it was still incredibly well done. A Town Like Alice chronicles the experience of a woman taken prisoner by the Japanese in WWII-era Malaysia. This is the strongest section of the book and is made even more fascinating by the fact that it was based on a true story. 

Jean Paget is a formidable heroine who endures setting up shop in the Australian outback and working in Malaysian rice paddies with strength and dignity. It’s been a long time since I’ve run across a female lead who was as strong, smart, and determined as Jean is. 

Every time I thought I grasped what the central plot or theme of the book was, it changed. I love that the reader is taken from Scotland to Malaysia to London to Australia. It can’t quite be described as a travelogue as the travel settings are generally quite harrowing. 

There’s a ‘love’ element in this book, but I definitely felt like it played second fiddle to the other trials that Jean goes through, it’s not really a central theme in the book. It’s used more as a plot device to propel the story forward at times.

 Excellent piece of fiction, it definitely deserves to be on the zillion ‘best-of’ lists that it’s found on.
#545 – 1001 Books You Must Read (2010)

April @ The Steadfast Reader


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