Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A Town Like Alice, by Nevil Shute

Basics of the story: Jean inherits a large sum of money from an uncle she barely remembers as a child. The bulk, however, is to be held in trust until her 35th birthday. In collecting the yearly capital, she gains the chance to prove her maturity to her trustee, Noel. She recounts to him her war story--how she was trapped in Malay when the Japanese invaded, how she survived being shuttled from base to village to port, never finding haven in a prison camp, and having to bury nearly half the women and children in their company. At one point in their journey, an Australian POW befriended them and paid harshly for it. Jean receives closure on this chapter in her life when she uses the money from her legacy to build a well in the village that finally took the female prisoners in. In speaking to the villagers, she finds her next mission [to tell any more would be a thorough spoiler].

What I thought: For a novel written in 1950, about an unfamiliar part of WWII, it kept my interest quite well. It isn't deep in character development, but the author does enough to move the plot along. Shute also does well in describing the countryside, be it jungle or outback.

I found it refreshing to read a romance that didn't read like a porn script or an unrealistic, generalized fantasy. This novel is a rarity--clearly set in the past, but with elements that engage the reader throughout the book.

[originally posted to BookCrossing 6/9/03]

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