Jean Paget is just twenty years old and working in Malaya when the Japanese invasion begins. When she is captured she joins a group of other European women and children whom the Japanese force to march for miles through the jungle. While on the march, the group run into some Australian prisoners, one of whom, Joe Harman, helps them steal some food, and is horrifically punished by the Japanese as a result. After the war, Jean tracks Joe down in Australia and together they begin to dream of surmounting the past and transforming his one-horse outback town into a thriving community like Alice Springs...
©1989 The Trustees of the Estate of the Late Nevil Shute Norway
This is a gentle and genteel adventure story, beautifully told, and even more wonderfully read. Robin Bailey hits the exact right note for every one of the many voices in this tale, and where I might have grown tired of reading this excellent book in print form (I love literature but have been spoiled by good audiobooks), it rolls along at a perfect pace for listening.
The book itself is somewhat dated, and the casual racism of 1950s Australia is acknowledged and dismissed without further comment, but read in the context of its times it is a spirited pioneer story, a love story and tempered venture into feminism. One of the few audiobooks I will save for another listen in the future.
The story was amazing and engrossing from start to finish (well, not quite from the start; the very beginning sounded boring, with what seemed at the time to be an unneccessarily detailed narrative about an old man hiring a solicitor to write his will, and I almost switched to another book on my iPod. But I stuck it out and was quickly pulled into the story). The characters are wonderful and the plot is fascinating. It never gets slow; I found myself sitting in my car to continue listening when I'd get to work, reluctant to leave the story. I love the narration. The reader was perfect for this book. This is one of the most memorable stories I've listened to in my many years as an Audible subscriber.
This was my first audiobook (book-on-tape in those days); I asked Audible to provide it and was pleased to see it recently appear. Thanks, Audible!
On re-listening, it was even better than the first time. It is TERRIFIC. The story is spell-binding, somewhat historical and absolutely riveting. The narrator is simply superb. I can't imagine anyone from pre-teen age onward who would not be spellbound by the combination of narration plus superb writing plus story.
MOST highly recommended.
By Michael, Santa Barbara, CA
Excellent book. Tends to slow down a bit in the 2nd half, but overall a compelling story about interesting people and times. The descriptions about life in the UK and Australia were fascinating. The narration was quite good, with the narrator going back and forth from the London accent of the UK to the Australia accent.
I'm going from chapter to chapter in life. Some are definitely better than others!
Way back in the mid seventies my first husband and I divorced. We argued over the custody of three things - our son, the dog and a book, The Legacy. I won 2 of the 3 items (he got the dog). Through the years I delighted in both my son and rereading Nevil Shute's wonderful book. The Legacy was renamed A Town Like Alice. (Personally I feel the original title fits the story better)
I enjoyed A Town Like Alice so much that when my second husband and I traveled to Australia in 1999 I insisted we visit the outback, Alice Springs in particular. We spent 2 nights and 3 days on a working station just outside Alice. I kept looking for Joe or Jean to come greet us.
What makes A Town Like Alice such a great book to read is the completion of an interesting and complex storyline. A Town Like Alice takes place in England, Malaysia and Australia. The first part of the story occurs during World War II. That part of Nevil Shute's story is somewhat historically correct. It's interesting to read about the women taken prisoner by the Japanese in Malaysia, and the strength if the human spirit. This novel has everything - war, survival, a legacy, romance, business savvy, friendship,humanity and more.
I highly recommend A Town Like Alice. It is a great book to read and an equally fine audible book. Robin Bailey, the narrator, is easy to listen to. He does well portraying all the various characters throughout the story. A Town Like Alice will not disappoint you.
If you have never read Nevil Shute, you are missing an opportunity to revitialize your personal outlook on life. This is a extraordinary story of a women who has the mental capacity and spiritual drive to do something special with her life. Become immersed in the spectacular images and prose of an English born aeronautical engineer who served during both world wars, eventually becoming an author and settling with his family in Australia. As one of his seven books, you will experience a simple story that serves as an introduction to his later, more powerful, works. Free from political commentary or nuance, you will find this a story that impels us to look beyond the mundane, and perhaps prompt us to visualize our own lives as an opportunity to better the world as our abilities and situations permit. In Mr. Shute's other six books you will discover his uncommon world view which is sure to enrich your own.
I discovered Nevil Shute in my late teens and was thrilled to see this old favorite finally available with Audible. As with many Nevil Shute books, it starts off slowly but then becomes completely engrossing. Fascinating picture of life in Malaya and Australia in the '40s and early '50s, engaging characters. Excellent narration, perfect for the story. Am hoping that other Shute favorites will be added soon - Pied Piper, No Highway, Trustee from the Toolroom, Pastoral, In the Wet.
I am an audio book addict. Love staging the drama in my head, especially psychological intrigue and mysteries.
This is the second book that I have listened to by Nevil Shute, and it inspired me, once again to follow his work. Shute’s stories are both entertaining and informative; simple and grand at the same time. It is so easy to picture the narrative and dialogue, excellently narrated by Robin Bailey. This story, written in the 1950’s, would have been the “Indiana Jones and How the West Was Won” type of story for the time. It is about personal struggle, character, adventure, and romance across continents and countries that included, England, Malaya and Australia during WWII. Great storytelling!
I live full-time in a motorhome, traveling west of the Rockies.
This is one of the best novels I've ever read and Robin Bailey's audio narration is perfect. The quiet tone of the book's narrator, both as written by Shute and underplayed by Bailey, makes the Malaysian WWII horrors described listenable without stopping, except to rewind and relisten occasionally. The un-ending British/Australian stiff-upper-lip recollection of what happened is typical of another time and place. The characterizations, as in all Nevil Shute novels, makes the story riveting. The ultimate happy resolution, while completely foreseeable, is nuanced in unexpected ways and keeps the listener involved to the end.
I wish there were more Nevil Shute books available on audio. I rented one about the Australian flying doctor service some 20 years ago from Books on Tape that was excellent. That one isn't even available in used print (Amazon). Surely there are more novels on audio from Australia or England that Audible/Amazon could obtain rights to and bring to their readers.
Enjoying one good listen after the next!
What a great story -- with an equally great narrator! If you need lots of fast paced action to keep your attention, this book may not be your cup of tea; but if you are a patient listener (Robin Bailey's voice is mesmerizing) who likes to see a good story unfold gracefully, you will love this book. It starts in England, moves with the war to Malaya and Singapore and then climaxes in the vast hinterlands of Australia. The three major characters, each of whom are well defined and extremely likable; experience believable although frightful circumstances in their lives. The author has crafted a story ending that you won't discern until the very last chapter. In my view, a great book. . . but I am a patient listener!
"A Great Book Well Read"
Despite this audiobook being produced decades ago Robin Bailey reads it so well that it is timeless. I can't wait to hear more of Nevil Shute titles.
"Revisiting my past"
Great. I am listening to books that I read years ago and which left an impression on me. The story is one of great hardship and positivity. It is a well read story. I was hoping to find "On the Beach" by the same author (Nevil Shute), but alas. Cheers
"One of my favourite books - wonderful story"
A favourite for years, lovely to see this one in the Audible library - an instant addition to the Wish List. Yes its very 'old fashioned', and 'terribly British' - emotions held in check. The story stands the test of time, and I hope it gets many new listeners.
My mother informed me this was a must read and I could not find it in any book shop i could not find it in the library and was thrilled and amazed that it was here. The story is brilliant the narrator does huge justice to the story, i agree a must listen to.
I've never read any Nevil Shute before and I thoroughly enjoyed this. A terrifically engaging story superbly brought to life by the narrator. The only slight niggle is that you do need to be prepared to accept the borderline racism as being 'of its time'.
"A Nevil Shute Classic"
A classic in storytelling and if not read at a young age then this audio version is a must
"Loved the historical language"
No, I needed time to think about it all
It was on a list of 'books you should read' so I downloaded it and really loved the walk though time.
Excellent combination of voice, performance and story, this is a real five star experience and gives great joy.
"A long time favourite story brilliantly told"
Like many reviewers here I first read A Town Like Alice as a teenager and have loved it, and reread it many times since (I am now retired). It is a wonderful story of overcoming adversity, love, adventure and entrepreneurialism. Here it is quite superbly performed by Robin Bailey who manages all the varied accents quite brilliantly and totally draws you into the story. Of all my 200+ Audible titles, many of which are very well performed, this is one of my highest rated for performance - I have listened to it several times and love it every times.
Everything really but I think Jean's descriptions of her war experiences are done incredibly well and are very moving, especially knowing that these are based on real life events.
Couldn't name a favourite - he seems to do everyone brilliantly from Scots to Australians, male and female. His upper class English drawls are especially convincing and he manages to make every one sound slightly different. He is utterly convincing as the narrator Noel Strachan (pronounced Strawn), an elderly London solicitor.
War is hell - but sometimes miracles happen! (If you loved this book do NOT watch the film of the same name starring Virginia McKenna and Peter Finch and which bears little relation to the actual story written by Nevil Shute)
As many other reviewers have commented it is very dated in many of its attitudes but these reflect the time in which it was written and should not detract from the enjoyment of the book. Had we lived through those times we would almost certainly have held the same views.
"Dated but a must read"
I listened to this book as I drove to Alice Springs. It was not as i expected with relatively little about the town in the story. But a wonderfully dated love story with a good woman and a bonza bloke. Lots of cringing around the descriptions of the aboriginal peoples and the expectations of women in post war society.
However with it as a setting for my trip it worked for me and perhaps explained much of what i saw and vise versa.
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