Ananya Banerjee reviews Nevil Shute’s “A Town Like Alice”

Just finished reading A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. It’s a 1950 publication, telling the story of Jean Paget, a young girl who finds herself in a life changing situation due to no doings of her own.
It started out as description of her ordeal during the 2nd World War. It was an account of a group of people who were taken prisoners but were not put in a camp. We have heard countless stories of atrocities in POW camps, but what happens when you don’t get a camp? It also presents a more or less humane picture of the captors.
The second half is based more on economics and economic development, as to how a humble beginning could lead to a societal change. It would be interesting for someone who enjoys that genre.
For me the first half was excellent. The pace, the character development, everything. The second half seemed a bit surreal to me.
The writing at its core was both sexist and racist. Considering that It’s based in the 1940s and 1950s, it wasn’t very surprising. But being in the present day, it does hit you. The writer didn’t go out of his way to show disrespect but no one was really addressing the glaring unfairness of the situation. This despite the fact that the protagonist was one of the strongest female characters that I’ve read.
The narrator was sometimes irritating and creepy but basically a decent old British guy.
All in all it was a good and enjoyable read. If we can keep the judgement in check (it’s difficult) and give the writer the benefit of doubt (considering his day and age). The first half is splendid. The second half only builds on the foundation of the first half.

3.5 out of 5.


Leave Comment