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5.0 out of 5 stars A story that stays with you! The best!
"A Town Like Alice" reveals the "forced marches" imposed on WWII prisoners of war as they took place in, what was then, the Dutch East Indies. Historically, their captors, the Japanese army, took as prisoner men, women and children. The reason? They were either Dutch, English or Australian. Although the men were sent to labor camps, the captors did not...
Published on Aug. 29 2001

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A town called Corny
I honesty cannot find any redeeming qualities in this book. Everything is ruined by the writing style, even the almost salvageable descriptions of the outback and the Malay jungle. The abundance of irrelevant facts (is Anne Tyler a direct descendant of Nevil Shute?) that drag the storyline along for ages and provide absolutely nothing to the plot was unbearable. Same...
Published on June 22 2001 by Manola Sommerfeld


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A town called Corny, June 22 2001
This review is from: A Town Like Alice (Mass Market Paperback)
I honesty cannot find any redeeming qualities in this book. Everything is ruined by the writing style, even the almost salvageable descriptions of the outback and the Malay jungle. The abundance of irrelevant facts (is Anne Tyler a direct descendant of Nevil Shute?) that drag the storyline along for ages and provide absolutely nothing to the plot was unbearable. Same thing with the myriad of characters that pepper the pages, which have a half-a-minute cameo appearance, never to be heard of again. I estimate the adverb 'presently' was used about once per page. Joe has the adjective 'sheepish' tacked on every other time he is mentioned. If this book were to become a movie, i would picture Gerard Depardieu playing the part of Big Oaf Joe. The old lawyer is the narrator of the story, yet how could you narrate dialog taking place between two or three people 12000 miles away? Surely Jean did not write all that verbatim in her letters!
From a documentary standpoint, one could see that this novel uses racial epithets for male and female Aborigines (boongs and lubras) because it is reflecting the spirit of the time (another example is when Jean starts her shop and she decides to have an annex where the colored can go). However, i do think that the descriptions of the Japanese in the early parts of the novel are very racist. These descriptions went beyond reporting, and i did not appreciate that.
The funniest part of the book is when Joe and Jean finally reveal their love for each other, and Jean almost loses her virginity in the heat of passion. She and Joe decide to cool it off, and the next morning, when she is taking a bath, she discovers bruises all over her body, and reflects on "the narrowness of her escape from a fate worse than death". WOW! I know the story takes place in post WWII time, but it was hilarious to read those sentiments.
There are lots of contradictions in the book. For example, Joe and Jean go to a semi-desert island for the weekend, and that's when they get passionate. But they decide they are going to keep their romance a secret, so that the townspeople don't gossip. Well, what would they be thinking when they saw the young couple take off for the weekend to a paradise island, no chaperone invited??? How about when Jean goes to the ranch overnight? Hmmm...
Anyway, there are romance novels in your local supermarket that can be far more entertaining and less unnerving. Don't waste your time on this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Monotonous, April 4 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: A Town Like Alice (Mass Market Paperback)
Although this book has its interesting points, all value is totally washed away by the drudgery of facts completely insignificant to the story. It drags on about very boring things that have absolutely no relevance (how good she is at making shoes, etc). The romance is quite artifical also, as Joe and Jean knew each other in the war for a very short time. Undying love as shown in the book cannot convincingly develop in this short span. There is no chemistry between these characters; they are in love with the symbolism that the other provides. Painful to read, utter dribble. As I said, its has good points, but by the time the book was over I wanted to shoot myself from boredom. Avoid this book.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!, Sept. 12 2002
This review is from: A Town Like Alice (Mass Market Paperback)
I just finished reading A Town Like Alice for what must be the 12th-plus time in a 20-year love affair with this story. The range of reviews for the book surprised me. What other readers saw as boring I saw as the refreshing way Nevil Shute tells a complex story where the events speak for themselves, without resorting to schmaltz or over-dramatization. The strength of Jean's character alone is a standout in quiet feminie heroism. The prior reviews have also criticized the handling of Joe Harmon's character as being "two-dimensional", but I believe Mr. Shute remains true to Joe's quiet and simple nature--and the story is, after all, mainly Jean's anyway.
As to the complaints of racism, the novel represents what was then the unfortunate attitudes of the white settlers to the Aboriginal natives. Would the same reviewers have criticized Margaret Mitchell's handling of black slaves in Gone With the Wind? A Town Like Alice shows realism in characters and their attitudes, it is not a story of civil rights or political correctness.
A truly moving and poignant love story, one of the best of its time and indeed, of today as well.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book which works on many levels, July 2 2002
By 
Gary M. Greenbaum (Fairfax, VA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Town Like Alice (Mass Market Paperback)
Too few of Nevil Shute's books are in print in this country--fortunately, this is one of the better one.
When an old Scottish man dies, London solicitor Noel Strachan learns that his sole heir is a young woman named Jean Paget. Strachan acts as her trustee, dispensing money as needed under the will, but the old lawyer soon finds himself falling for the young lady. Before Strachan has done more than shown her London's culture, Paget is off to Malaya to repay the village where she stayed during WWII by digging a well. She convinces Strachan to release the money by telling the story (based on real life) of how she and other women were held prisoner by the Japanese, but eventually found refuge in a small village. Before they go there, they encounter a young Australian, Joe Harmon, who is crucified for stealing food for them. When Paget returns to Malaya, she learns that Harmon survived and returned to Australia. Meanwhile, Harmon has gone to England to seek her, having thought she was married when they met in Malaya. They eventually meet up in Australia (Strachan, out of his own love for Jean, has gently attempted to frustrate the meeting). Jean, determined to make her home in Harmon's home area, sets out to make the godforsaken town into "A Town Like Alice"--a modern town like Alice Springs.
It is a fascinating story. But overlooked in every review I read is the role of the old solicitor, Noel Strachan, who finds himself in love with Jean some decades too late, and is unable to serve as a rival to Joe Harmon. He soon surrenders his unexpressed (even to himself) love out of regard for Jean's interest. His unrequited love, lends a poignant note to the book.
There are no villains. Even the dark characters, like the Japanese who crucified Harmon, are seen as human beings doing the best they can. The fact that the acts they do can be terrible do not alter the fact that they are human beings, and they are painted as such.
Harmon and the other Australian characters are not painted as well as the other characters; perhaps Shute, who had only recently emigrated to Australia, was afraid of erring in characterizations.
Still, a fine book that made a great miniseries.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A story that stays with you! The best!, Aug. 29 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: A Town Like Alice (Mass Market Paperback)
"A Town Like Alice" reveals the "forced marches" imposed on WWII prisoners of war as they took place in, what was then, the Dutch East Indies. Historically, their captors, the Japanese army, took as prisoner men, women and children. The reason? They were either Dutch, English or Australian. Although the men were sent to labor camps, the captors did not always know where to take the women and children, and thus kept them walking, and walking, and walking. The story in the novel is transferred to the jungles of Malaysia. Prisoner of war Jean Pagett, a refined, young English woman, is the heroine, who takes over the leadership of the marching group of captives. Under devastating circumstances the women meet fellow prisoner of war Joe Harman, from the rugged Australian Outback, where he was a "ringer" or cattle runner. "Two total opposites" one would think but even though the war ends and everyone separates, they each set out a search to the opposing side of the earth to find the other. What was the bond and do they, in fact, accomplish their individual missions? Once involved in the story as a reader, it is difficult to put down the book. It's one of those of which you wish the last page had not come. An excellent read, a story that could have been true and one that gives hope that from bad circumstances, good, even great things can still come!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Oh my word, this is a wonderful book!, Sept. 11 2003
By 
Scorpio69 (Hawaii, America's Paradise) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Town Like Alice (Mass Market Paperback)
This is a beautifully written story, cleverly and very poignantly told from the point of view of a 70-something man - a careful, considerate London solicitor who is the trustee (with broad discretionary powers) of a will that leaves a considerable sum of money (but not a lump sum, due to the conditions of the will) to a young woman.
Jean Paget is that young woman, and she is an extraordinary person, making her story very compelling reading.
The weaving of the threads of her life - her WWII experiences as a prisoner of the Japanese in Malaya; her fateful encounter with Australian Joe Harmon; the inheritance that allows her to leave the mundane working world; her interaction with solicitor Noel Strachan; and her search for her true destiny - is done in the most masterful way.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is deeply satisfying reading. It is everything a novel should be.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This book is actually based on the World War II., Jan. 16 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: A Town Like Alice (Mass Market Paperback)
My name is Danyal Ahmed. I am currently in class eighth. 'A Town Like Alice' is includes in our English Literature course. This novel is a masterpiece. I have also seen the movie of the novel. This book is actually based on the World War II. The book visualise the condition the women were facing in Malaya. The soldiers made the women march to different places. They thought that women are of no value. During the war, Jean Paget, met a guy named Joe Harman. They started to like each other. But Joe thought that Jean was married. But she wasn't.After the war, things turned differently. Jean went back to her home country, England, & Joe was back to Australia. After many years Joe came to know that Jean wasn't married. So he went England to find her. In the meantime Jean was in Australia finding Joe. So both couldn't find each other. But after sometime they were reunited & married.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have ever read!, Jan. 18 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: A Town Like Alice (Mass Market Paperback)
I am a reader; I devour books. A Town Like Alice is one of my very favorites. I come back to it time and again, whenever I need to lose myself in the heat of Malaysia or the dust of Australia. This book is so well written that I can feel the stones in the road as Jean marches along with the other women in their "Death March". I can feel the despair she feels when she believes Joe to be dead and her intense joy when she discovers that he is still alive. The story is timeless. My mother-in-law,who was a bride during World War II, first introduced me to this book saying that it was her all time favorite, and even though I came of age in the 70's, the book speaks to me as well. Its message of love's survival in the face of desperate odds gives us all a sense of hope.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Why is it so rare to meet a good person in a novel anymore?, Aug. 18 2000
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This review is from: A Town Like Alice (Mass Market Paperback)
I think _A Town Like Alice_ is near the top of my all-time favorite book list, too (along with _To Kill a Mockingbird_ and _The Catcher in the Rye_). What strikes me about it and many of Shute's books is the quiet heroism of its characters. Good, strong people who work hard at improving the world and shine through the pages with a commonsense morality and unconscious courage. I proselytize this book heavily, picking it up whenever I'm at a used book store and passing it along. The whole narrator device is a bit off-putting at first (my sister-in-law and brother listened to it on tape and almost gave up near the beginning), but the book picks up speed if you keep with it (my sister-in-law and brother ended up LOVING it). The video is also good--I'm buying that today!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The unassuming hero., Dec 5 2014
By 
Len (Slave Lake, Alberta, Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A TOWN LIKE ALICE (Kindle Edition)
A young woman is taken prisoner by the Japanese during the second world war in Southeast Asia. They are forced to walk from village to village searching for a detention centre that will keep them like Sisyphus pushing his rock up the mountain. In spite of her youth, Jean becomes their leader of their group and we become aware of the kind of the resourcefulness that will motivate her to create a town like Alice. Nevil Shute weaves his story in a seamless narrative that leads us from the elderly British lawyer who tells the story of Jean, the young secretary who unexpectedly inherits money from an obscure uncle to her Australian love interest and cattle rancher, Joe. His depiction of the unassuming character who acts heroically should circumstances necessitate.
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A Town Like Alice
A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute (Mass Market Paperback - Oct. 12 1987)
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