Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Town Like Alice

A friend from book group recommended A Town Like Alice by Neil Shute and I am
really glad that he did and that I followed through and read it! It is an older book, published in 1950.  I had never heard of the book, so was curious to read it.  The author died in 1960 and when I checked what else he had written, none of his work sounded familiar to me.  However, having said that, this novel reviewed was made into a movie and the book was rated as #17 of 100 in the Readers' List of the Modern Library 100 Best Novels of the 20th century. Sounds pretty good to me!


A Town Like Alice is the story of the life of Jean Paget.  Jean came from England, but was living in Malaya during World War II.  She and many others were captured by the Japanese and were sent on a forced march for seven months through the jungles.  They had to keep going because wherever they went, the prisoners were not wanted and so they would have to keep moving. Eventually the prisoners were able to settle for a time and stayed there until they were rescued.  While a prisoner, Jean became friends with a couple of Australian soldiers who were also prisoners, but were able to offer some assistance with food and medicine.  However, the soldiers paid a high price for helping the women and were thought to have died.


After her rescue, Jean returned to England and lived a quiet life.  Years later, she received an unexpected inheritance and decided that she wanted to give something back to the village in Malaya that had helped her survive.  She left her job and traveled to Malaya to organize her gift to them.  While there, Jean learned that one of the soldiers that had helped her had survived and was living back in Australia.  She went there to search for him and while there, found what her life had been missing.


This book really seemed like two novels....the story in Malaya and then years later, the story of Jean's life in Australia.  Both of the stories are wonderfully courageous and up-lifting. 


The book is very well written and I too recommend it!