A Town Like Alice
Nevil Shute’s best-known and most-loved novel, and one my mom has loved for as long as I can remember. I've read it once, but not for a long time. This is the story of a young Englishwoman who miraculously survived a Japanese “death march” in World War II, and of an Australian soldier who risked his life to for help her and her friends. The book's assumptions are a bit dated, but the story endures.
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.