Thursday, 21 April 2011

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

This book is another one, like A Tree Grows in Broklyn, which I always wanted to read because of its name, and like A Tree Grows in Broklyn I had an old copy with an ugly cover, but I loved them both!

A Town Like Alice tells the tale of Jean, a young girl who grew up being able to speak Malayan as her father had worked there. Before the war starts she wanted an adventure so went to work as a typist in Malay. But the war changed everything. When the British families in the area were gathered up to be put into prisoner of war camps by the Japanese the men where separated from the women and led of to Singapore. The group of women and children were left behind in search of a camp to put them in. As no one wanted them they were led walking from place-to-place with just a few Japanese guards to protect them. Jean becomes a central figure in the group as she is able to communicate with the local people, and even translate for their Japanese guards. During this journey she learns to live in a different way, has to accept deaths and illness and find ways to keep the rest of this group alive. The group meet an Australian who helps them for just a few days with food and medicine.
When she returns to England after the war she simply wants to put the past behind her, yet when she comes into an inheritance life has a few drastic changes in store.

When I first started reading this book I thought of abandoning it as the opening pages were really slow, but then when Jean's story abouy Malay started I was hooked. The details, her fight for survival and the way that the women were treated are described in a cool distanced way as the tale is being retold by someone who has listened to the tale. When the love story kicks in and her trip to Australia the tale certainly has the feel of a romance novel, but one with class and more to it that soppiness. The setting of Malay and the Australian outback are created before your eyes and I had a lovely picture of each in my head as I was reading this.
Certainly a book which I would recommend others to read.

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