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On a first reading of A Town Like Alice you focus on the exciting story, but when you re-read the novel, you slow down to enjoy the details and its picture of Australia seventy years ago. So much has changed – much of it for the better – but you can still recognise outback towns of today in the descriptions of the buildings, the willingness of locals to help each other in an emergency, and the resilience needed to live in inhospitable and lonely places. I have loved learning more about the background, the author and the real stories which inspired it as I prepared this Guide.
A Town Like Alice was published in 1950 and generally, I think it has stood the test of time really well. When I first read the book as a teenager, I failed to notice the racism in it, it reflects so clearly the way Aboriginal people were treated in 1950s Australia that you get a strong sense of how taken for granted racist attitudes were. Things are certainly different today. There are calls at the moment to ban books and films that are not politically correct. I am 100% against this and I feel it is extremely important to read novels which depict racism so that we can learn from the lessons of the past. You may disagree, but the place of fiction in giving us history lessons is, in my view, vital. As writer George Santayana said, “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it”. I believe that fiction helps us to avoid that mistake.
I do hope that if you are reading this for the first time that you too love its gripping tale. If you are revisiting it, I hope a re-reading brings an increased appreciation of its excellent story-telling and that it makes you think about how much Australia has changed in the last seventy years. Join me in an outback adventure in this romantic and stirring novel.
FREE ONLINE COMPANION
Add more enjoyment to your copy of Nevil Shute & A Town Like Alice Literary Reader's Guide at its online companion page. Susannah has prepared these recommended resources to accompany Nevil Shute & A Town Like Alice.
Featured image credit- Nevil Shute, A Town Like Alice. Bryan Brown and Helen Morse in A Town Like Alice (1981), https://www.facebook.com/pg/atownlikealice/photos/
Body image credit- Nevil Shute, https://www.jonglat.com/home/on-the-beach
Body image credit- A Town Like Alice, first edition book cover, fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19977426
Body image credit- Peter Finch & Virginia McKenna, A Town Like Alice, 1956 Vic Films, https://moviesalamark.com/2017/08/16/a-town-like-alice/
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