Tag Archives: Neville Shute

10 Literary Wonder Women

Last week I put up this post, asking about readers’ favourite female protagonists in literature. I wanted to compile a list, but decided that I could only give my stamp of approval to characters from books I have already read!

So here are my ten literary wonder women…

Jean Paget – Feminine, but tough in the face of adversity and a visionary philanthropist. From Neville Shute’s A Town Like Alice.

Marion Halcombe – Un-pretty but intelligent and resourceful, and a fabulous heroine in The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.

Jo March – A tomboy with a passion for writing who is always getting herself into trouble in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women

George Kirrin – Another adventurous and courageous tomboy from Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five children’s books.

Betty Vanderpoel – Rescues her downtrodden sister with panache in The Shuttle, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Jean Brodie – Charismatic and (dubiously) opinionated teacher in Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Hermione Granger – Wonderfully sparky, girl-geek from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series

Matilda Wormwood – A brave little girl with a love of books who stands up to her bullying head-teacher in Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

Maya – Overcomes racism and personal trauma in coming of age novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Antigone, Classical heroine who stands up for what she believes in despite facing punishment by death in Sophocles’ Antigone (Oedipus Tragedies)

There are quite a few books I now want to read after all your suggestions including Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (for Becky Sharp), Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (for Miss Taggart) and Pride and Predjudice by Jane Austen (for Elizabeth Bennet) as I’ve only seen the TV series, whoops!

What do you think of my top ten?

Booking Through Thursday – Thankful Thursday

Booking Through Thursday

A weekly meme.

This weeks question:

It’s Thanksgiving in the U.S.A. today, so I know at least some of you are going to be as busy with turkey and family as I will be, so this week’s question is a simple one:

What books and authors are you particularly thankful for this year?

This year I’m thankful for Alan Bennett and his wonderful Uncommon Reader which was short but sweet and made me smile. I keep forgetting it’s fiction and keep thinking of the Queen as this lovely bookaholic lady.

A close second would be Neville Shute for A Town Like Alice which has a leading lady I really admired.

I was swept away by Wilkie Collins’ sensational Armadale which features possibly the best femme fatale ever written, and was shocked by Lloyd Jones’ Mister Pip which I finally got around to reading!

And finally for a bit of mystery and suspense, Sophie Hannah for her brilliant thrillers, A.A.Milne for a good old fashioned murder mystery and Tom Rob Smith for one of the most gripping books I’ve read this year.

What books and authors are you thankful for this year?

A Nice Parcel and a Tuesday Teaser

teasertuesdays31After getting thoroughly annoyed running around the shops at lunchtime trying to post a parcel and failing, I was cheered to see a parcel for me on my desk when I got back to work. Of course it was a book parcel and this time it was one that I ordered from a recommendation (thanks Homefrontgirl!) based on my glowing review of Neville Shute’s A Town Like Alice. I fancied reading more Shute and imagine my delight when the one that Homefrontgirl suggested, Requiem for a Wren was on eBay going cheap – a lovely 1956 copy with a pretty zodiac print cover:

Requiem for a Wren

So even though I haven’t started it yet, I thought I’d do my Tuesday Teaser from this one:

“I was intensly reluctant to open that case. To do so would clearly be an act in opposition to the dead girl’s earnest wish and one should respect the wishes of the dead.”

Page 47, Requiem for a Wren, Neville Shute.

I’m all intrigued now to find out what the case was and whether he did or not!

Has anyone else read Requiem for a Wren? What was your Tuesday Teaser?

Neville Shute’s A Town Like Alice

Nevil Shute - A Town Like Alice I wonder, have I found a new author to add to my favourites list? A couple of weeks ago I blogged about joining a book club (A New Book Group Frontier) at my new job and although a little worried that I might be over-subscribing myself, was excited about the choice of the month – Neville Shute’s A Town Like Alice.

First published in 1950, A Town Like Alice follows the path of protagonist Jean Paget. Taken as a prisoner of war by the Japanese, Jean is among a party of European women who are marched back wards and forwards over hundreds of miles in Malaya, because no camp will take them and nobody seems to know what else to do with them. I don’t want to give away too many details of the story, if you do want to know more about what happens you can find out on Wikipedia here. But be warned it’s a synopsis so there are spoilers. The novel follows Jean from Japanese occupied Malaya in 1930, home to London and all the way out to Australia and we see her grow from a smart and strong young woman to quite a philanthropist as she settles in a backwater of Queensland and strives to develop little Willstown into a town like Alice Springs.

A Town Like Alice is a real ‘story’. It’s sort of an adventure part morality tale about personal strength, survival and a woman’s desire to create something beautiful out of the bare means in a time when women had very little influence. I apologies if that description makes it sound incredibly naff, but it’s really not. It is certainly cinematic in a way that must have made it the perfect candidate for the 1956 movie and the1981 TV series, but the characters are down to earth, their successes and failures real, and the writing is of the highest standard. I didn’t realise before I read it but wasn’t surprised to find out afterwards that it was based on the actual experiences of a woman named Carry Geysel who was one of a group of 80 Dutch women forced to march 1,200 miles around Sumatra after they were taken prisoner by the Japanese in 1942. It struck chord with me because my Dutch-born grandmother was taken prisoner by the Japanese during the second world war in Java. The stories she has told me of the way that people coped and kept themselves going in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, are similar to those of the women and children described in this novel. In particular the little happy moments where people nicked food or little treats that made things bearable. Also, because she was of a similar age to Jean it makes it easier for me to imagine the bravery, understand the small kindnesses and what it meant for a woman at that time and that situation.

There are many important themes in the novel, but the key ones are of survival and later, philanthropy. In A Town Like Alice, people are judged by their deeds and personal strength, whatever their race or social status. Being set when it was, it’s perhaps not surprising that there is some racist language that is now considered inappropriate. However the language that is used makes sense in the context. I felt that for the era in which it was written, it was pretty well rounded and forward thinking in this regard. For example the Japanese are never portrayed as simply ‘bad’ – each character is judged on their actions as an individual.

I had a soft spot for the character of Noel Strachan, Jean’s lawyer who looks after her trust fund. The story is told from his point of view and his reminiscences which begin in stormy day in Scotland almost reminded me a little of the way in which Wilkie Collins’ stories are structured (although that’s probably because I’m reading Armadale right now). Noel has a sort of guardian-like role in the novel, looking after Jean’s affairs and as the book progresses you see his admiration for her grow. Some of his narrative pieces made me feel quite tearful.

A Town Like Alice is a truly satisfying novel. It’s original and captivating, with great characters but the reason I enjoyed it so much is that it’s a brilliant story. Definitely recommended.

A New Book Group Frontier

Nevil Shute - A Town Like AliceI’ve just been asked if I’d like to join my book group at work. I said yes partly because I think that it would be a great way to get to know people better (and they all seem really nice), and also because the choice this month is Neville Shute’s A Town Like Alice which I keep on hearing good things about. In fact it is on the reader’s choice of The 100 Best Novels List I blogged about earlier. I’m already a member of 2 other book groups, but as I read lots I’m hoping it won’t be too difficult to keep up. Well I guess I’ll get a feel for it and see how it goes. I’ll be popping into Copperfields at lunch to see if I can get a nice well thumbed copy of A Town Like Alice if not, I’ve seen one on eBay with a fabulous cover (left)!

Has anyone read A Town Like Alice or anything else by Neville Shute? How many book groups are you a member of? Are you oversubscribed or do you like the challenge and variety that being a member of a book group brings?