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 But the book has been reprinted, and is available in a format that doesn’t go out of date every few years — ink on paper.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.