“A Town Like Alice”

The first thing that struck me about Nevil Shute’s “A Town Like Alice” was how old-fashioned it was. I don’t mean old-fashioned in the sense of the language it used; the words weren’t, for example, ‘Dickensian’ or ‘Austenesque’. It was rather that the sentiment that lay behind it seemed to belong to another era completely. Perhaps I have been reading too many modern novels.

I struggled with the strange and slightly weird mix of first- and third-person narrative styles too. Although it was clear what Shute was trying to do – almost a story-in-a-story approach – it didn’t work for me. You could have lost the first person narrator completely.

In the end I was disappointed. Having liked “On The Beach”, I had expected more somehow. Once the story moved beyond the events set in the Second World War – where it was at its strongest – it seemed to dissolve into the vaguely unbelievable.