Books are a means of traveling. Pretty cheap traveling, especially if you have a library card. They’re a way to visit lands you’d never be able to, or go back in time, or see magical realms of another person’s invention. As an indebted college student, I very much appreciate the joy of being able to see new worlds in books since traveling just isn’t in the budget at the moment. I suppose that’s why I really liked this challenge.
I chose a book that had already been on my reading list for a while, but one I knew had some fantastic locations I wouldn’t mind visiting if I had the chance. As someone who’s already covered a lot of ground in the United States and western Europe, my next goals for traveling are to see some of the east and of course to get to the land down under. So for my pick I read A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute.
This novel covers the journey of Jean Paget, a young English woman living in Malaya during WWII who ends up being captured by the Japanese and taken on a death march. Her life and the lives of several other women and children are saved thanks to the efforts of a brave Australian soldier. Thanks to him, she and the others end up living in a small village for the remainder of the war cultivating rice. A few years later, having come into some money, Jean returns from England to the village to provide them with a well. In the process she learns that her rescuer is still alive and she heads on a journey into the Australian outback to try to find him.
This story surprised me in being really interesting at the start. I had seen it on a few reading challenge lists and picked it up due to that, but I ended up really enjoying the read, especially to fit this challenge with all of the traveling and adventures. Although the book has some issues of racism due to when it was written, I thought that the ideas about women seemed more progressive than I would have expected. Jean is a pretty strong character, and she accomplishes impressive goals throughout the narrative. There are parts that are a bit cheesy, and I felt like the story did drag some in places, especially towards the end. However, most of it was quite interesting, and I enjoyed the story overall. I would definitely recommend this as a well done novel that is worth trying!
I don’t know that I really want to see Alice Springs specifically, but I’d love to visit Australia some day (the reason I picked this book), and I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to seeing some of Malaya, though hopefully in better circumstances than Jean. Regardless, I loved being able to see some of the world through a book from my library, imagining places in the world that I might not get to for a few more years at least.
Where are your favorite places you’ve traveled through reading? Do you have any books you’d recommend to use in exploring this world or other ones? What places would you love to explore more in real life?