Audio Review : A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

May 27, 2014 Audio Review 1 ★★★

I’ve been tearing my hair out over this review!  I adored parts of this book and other parts were so dull that it’s impossible to rate it.  So I’m going with good old Mr Average 3 star and hoping that everyone won’t immediately flee.  It was worth reading!

Audio Review : A Town Like Alice by Nevil ShuteA Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
Published by Random House LLC on 2010-02-09
Genres: Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary
Pages: 362
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Length: 10 hours 22 mins
Buy on Amazon

Nevil Shute’s most beloved novel, a tale of love and war, follows its enterprising heroine from the Malayan jungle during World War II to the rugged Australian outback.

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



Thoughts on The Narrator :

Robin Bailey did a great job in the narration.  The story is told through the eyes of an elderly British solicitor, Noel Strachan and the male narration felt right.  I found his voice very pleasant and easy to listen to and he does an excellent job of capturing the various accents.

The Highs of A Town Like Alice!

–  Jean is the main character in the book and I love what an enterprising, resourceful young woman she is.  From her moments in captivity in Malay, as a prisoner of war in the hands of the Japanese, she shows a level of courage that is inspiring.  And later in the book, I love how level headed she is and but also how determined she is to follow her heart and build a life worth living.  She is one of the most forward thinking characters I ever came across and I love her.

–  I loved the POW setting.  If you ever watched and loved Tenko like I did, then I think you’ll love the first part of this book too.  Jean and a group of other women and children never joined a prison camp but were marched from one area to the next in an unending, relentless, harsh set of circumstances.  I was addicted to the book here and was listening every chance I got.

–  Later in the book, Jean moves to Australia.  I loved watching her build a town (a town like Alice) out of nothing.  She is one determined woman!  And I loved that she broke all the rules of her time and went after her man!

–  And I grew to really appreciate the stuffy old solicitor – Noel.  He was half in love with Jean and the other half of him loved her like a daughter.  Either way, he was a solid friend to her, they enhanced each others lives and I loved watching their friendship grow.


The Lows of A Town Like Alice:

–  The book is over detailed at times.  And dull.  Not all the time but the parts of the descriptions of the cow ranches for example.  That was more than I ever needed or wanted to know about the working of a cow ranch. Yawn!

–  Also the book is very colonial.  I had to keep reminding myself that the 1940’s and 50’s were very different times but some of the expressions and descriptions were very racist.  Such as calling aboriginals ‘bongs’, I squirmed uncomfortably every time it happened.  I made allowances for the time period but certainly would not in a contemporary book.

–  Insta-love!  It’s obviously not a new thing as this book was written in 1950 but as always when a book introduces insta-love, it’s hard for me to buy into it.  But it’s not the main focus of the book so didn’t bother me too much.  And the main thing was Jean and Jo felt it, so that’s ok!

–  And one thing that really bothered me and just didn’t seem realistic was that Jean cared for a baby during her captivity.  But after the war, she just handed him over and never gave him a passing though again.  I doubt parting would be that easy and that final.


On the Balance:

This is a bit different to my normal reads and I’m glad I got a chance to experience it.  Some of the writing and descriptions are fab but the real winner is the characters.  I know I won’t forget Jean in a hurry as she is one of those characters that just stays with you.  It’s an inspiring read that makes you think if you can see it, then you can do it.


Rating Report
Did I feel it?
Overall: three-half-stars



Who should read A Town Like Alice?

If you like historical fiction especially those with WWII settings then I’d recommend this one to you.  You need to be aware the pace is slow but it really is worth sticking with it as it is quite the tale.  And if you a looking for a book with war, love and adventure; you will find all that and more here.


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