Nevil Shute, A Town Like Alice

My mother left school at 15, worked in a café and then became a housewife. She loved cooking, gardening and sewing. She’d read the newspaper and the Woman’s Weekly but not books. She once told me the only book she had ever read was Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice. 

My dad completed all 12 years of school, and loved reading. On his bookshelf were books by Thor Heyerdahl, Arthur Hailey, Alistair McLean, and Nevil Shute. I got my love of reading from him. I did read some books from his shelf but because I was a teenage girl, they were a bit adult and manly for me at the time.

I have often thought of my mom’s love of the one and only book she had ever read. A month or so ago I stumbled across it in the original English at a charity shop. The chances of that were pretty slim. It was published in 1950, and in those days, Swedes did not speak English very widely.  When my parents died, I was underage and a ward of the state so the house and all its contents (including the books) were sold. I have never seen a copy of the book again. Looking at it I had sharp pangs of missing my mother.  I never knew her after I became an adult. Over the years, there have been so many things I have wanted to ask her. No one else in the world knows the answers.

I won’t ever read the book. I think it would hurt too much. But I bought it to keep on my shelf because she loved it.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

4 thoughts

  1. I think it’s wonderful that you found this book and you should definitely keep it. As to reading it, it’s up to you and I can completely understand why you don’t want to read it. It’s your bond to your Mom and it’s very precious.

  2. What a shame you don’t want to read that book, because Neville Shute was a great, readable author (of his time period, though, so it would be unfair to expect attitudes which marry with current thoughts on what is acceptable). If you can’t bring yourself to read A Town Like Alice, then perhaps some others that your dad might have read? I’d recommend Requiem for a WREN, On The Beach, or Chequerboard as good, engrossing stories.

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