A Town Like Alice–Again

The “again” above is because I used “A Town Like Alice” for the title of my first post about the time I spent in Alice Springs. That post was about my travels, but this one is about a piece of great Australian literature. Author Nevil Shute originally titled his book The Legacy, but after a movie and a mini-series named A Town Like Alice, more recent printings of the book have born what is by now the more familiar title.

A Town Like Alice was based on a number of true incidents from World War II– among them, the Japanese treatment of women prisoners in Malaysia and an Australian soldier who was tortured — that Nevil Shute combined into a harrowing but ultimately triumphantly romantic novel. While the story is fiction, it is sufficiently anchored in history to offer interesting insights — including the occasionally amusing contrasts between Australians and the British at that time.

The mini-series, which starred Brian Brown and Helen Morse, was wonderfully involving. It is fairly faithful to the book. However, as far as I can tell, it’s only currently available in VHS, at least in the United States. So if you’ve still got a tape player, you’re in luck. It’s also on YouTube, in 21, 14-minute segments. But the book has been reprinted, and is available in a format that doesn’t go out of date every few years — ink on paper.

Of course, this is not the only great book from Nevil Shute. It is, however, a story I have come to really love. It is astonishing what people can survive — and it’s a good reminder that hardship doesn’t rule out a happy ending.

So check out the book–A Town Like Alice.



Filed under Australia, History, Literature, Travel

2 responses to “A Town Like Alice–Again

  1. I love this story too and that Brown/Morse version was a beauty I think. Shute was my passion in my teens and I read every one of his books. When my friends were reading Georgette Heyer I was interested in books closer to home (in place and time). I tried reading him again a few years ago and was sorely disappointed in the prose but that’s not to say that his stories aren’t still great. A town like Alice, On the beach and No highway all made great films/tv but quite a few of his other books were adapted to film/tv too.

    • I remember reading On the Beach in school, but I didn’t know about The Legacy/A Town Like Alice until the series showed here in the United States — which I suspect may have been several years after it appeared in Australia. Bryan Brown was lovely as Joe Harmon. I read the book after seeing the series, and probably because it was during the years I was becoming infatuated with Australia, I don’t know that I was paying particular attention to its literary merit, but rather just enjoying the wonderful story and images of the red land. I watched the video of the series again recently, and was still delighted with the story.

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