A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute What Nevil Shute may lack in eloquence he makes up for by providing the particulars that bring to life a distant place and time. This is a love story, but not a romance. There's no sex, no sappiness, no gasping or google eyes. Just a lot of hardship, hard work, and, most notably, hope. Jean Paget and Joe Harman meet in Malaya during World War II. She is British, he Australian, and both are prisoners of the Japanese. Joe sacrifices all to provide a little food for Jean's bedraggled group of women and children who have been forced to walk hundreds of miles on meager rations. (Said forced march based on true events that occurred in Sumatra.) The few days Jean and Joe have together lead to an astonishing passel of coincidences six years later. They reconnect in Australia, where Jean uses her ingenuity, determination, and a sizable inheritance to transform a lackluster Queensland settlement into "a town like Alice."Shute really fired my imagination with his portrayal of Australia in the late 1940s. He captures that frontier feeling of newness and possibility for those with vision and stamina, when Australia was still a young country in need of development. He also nails the difficulty of life for people on the cattle stations. Communication was only by radio, and not always reliable. This was essentially a life with no roads or bridges, often no transport except horses, no fruits or vegetables available, no entertainment, extreme heat with no AC, a lot of flooding, and many miles between stations. There must have been a lot of real life people similar to the Jean Paget character who were willing to sink their sweat and their money into the possibility of something finer. I have two criticisms/complaints: 1)Noel Strachan as narrator. This is intrusive and unnecessary and at times downright awkward. Noel is the lawyer who manages Jean's trust in Britain. The convolution involves Noel telling us the story that Jean related to him, with Noel occasionally inserting himself into the narrative. I found it distracting, and there's one place where even Nevil Shute got lost in the unnecessary complication, having Noel refer to himself in the third person rather than "me" or "I." 2)Jean Paget seems to have sprung forth fully formed as this young woman full of grit and determination and leadership abilities far beyond her years. We're told nothing about early life experiences that would have developed those qualities in her. A little back story would have made her a more convincing character.