Review: Nevil Shute’s “A Town Like Alice”

by writereaderly

nevil shute town like aliceContemporaneous with a recent read, Shute’s novel is a world away from Hammett’s Prohibition States and yet not as far as you’d imagine. While it’s set in Malaya during WWII, post-war London, and Gulf country in Australia, it does have its fair share of crime and murder. In summary, I’d call it a post-war colonial economic romance. Jean Paget and Joe Harman meet in terrible circumstances during the Japanese occupation of Malaya in 1942; they each seek out the other post-war; their romance blossoms as does the dot on the map known as Willstown, destined to become “a town like Alice” with the help of Jean’s inheritance. Ta-da. The Malaya sequence actually read like a slightly dull travelogue, and the segue to the Australian romance + economic miracle was a bit slim, plus there was plenty of historical racism (gin, lubra, boong and Abo galore). However, it was a pretty absorbing read, quite informative, and I quite liked it all up.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
Beanbag and bookended bed reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book: “whenever they were not working they were standing in the bar of the hotel drinking hugely at the cold Australian light beer that does no harm to people sweating freely at hard manual work” (p.163)
Who I’d recommend it to:
Historically curious readers
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley