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A Town Like Alice

A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

Going into this I had no real idea what it was about, but I absolutely loved it. It's not a perfect book--for example, it's rather episodic. And it certainly partakes of the racism of its time. There are casually used racial slurs, for instance. The portraits of the Malays and even the Japanese soldiers are rather nuanced and sympathetic despite this, but the Aboriginal Australians who work on the cattle station don't fare so well (perhaps because Jean is just getting to know them, but still). 

 

You could read this as a kind of allegory of colonial/national development, since Jean comes out to Australia and builds a new town by investing her British capital (money that originated in the Australian gold fields, nicely circular). Or you could just enjoy it for the adventure and romance. 

 

It reminded me of an odd assortment of old favorites: Maud Hart Lovelace's Early Candlelight, a romantic story set around the founding of St. Paul, MN; the Little House books for its portrait of a kind of frontier life, including all kinds of mundane detail; Helen MacInnes' WWII set books--not just the part where they're prisoners of war in Malaya, but the way the characters stoically Get On With Things in the face of difficulties, and the understated but very real emotions.