A town like Alice
Jean Paget is just twenty years old and working in Malaya when the Japanese invasion begins. When she is captured she joins a group of other women and children whom the Japanese forece to walk for miles through the jungle, leading to the deaths of many. Due to her courageous spirit, Jean takes on the role of leader of the sorry gaggle of prisoners. While on the march, the group run into an Australian prisoner, Joe Harman, who helps them steal some food, and is horrifically punished as a result. Jean’s adventures, and her bond with Joe, form the heart of this gripping and moving story.
The story falls broadly into three parts.
In Post-World War II London, Jean Paget, a secretary in a leather goods factory, is informed by solicitor Noel Strachan that she has inherited a considerable sum of money from an uncle she never knew. But the solicitor is now her trustee and she only has the use of the income until she inherits absolutely, at the age of thirty five, several years in the future. In the firm’s interest, but increasingly with personal interest, Strachan acts as her guide and advisor. Jean decides that her priority is to build a well in a Malayan village.
The second part of the story flashes back to Jean’s experiences during the war, when she was working in Malaya at the time the Japanese invaded and was taken prisoner together with a group of women and children.
As she speaks Malay fluently, Jean takes a leading role in the group of prisoners. The Japanese refuse all responsibility for the group and march them from one village to another. Many of them, not used to physical hardship, die. Jean meets an Australian soldier, Sergeant Joe Harman, also a prisoner, who is driving a lorry for the Japanese and they strike up a friendship. He steals food and medicines to help them. Jean is carrying a toddler, whose mother has died, and this leads Harman to believe that she is married; to avoid complications, Jean does not correct this assumption.
On one occasion, Harman steals five chickens from the local Japanese commander. The thefts are investigated and Harman takes the blame to save Jean and the rest of the group. He is beaten, crucified, and left to die by the Japanese soldiers. The women are marched away, believing that he is dead.
When their sole Japanese guard dies, the women become part of a Malayan village community. They live and work there for three years, until the war ends and they are repatriated
|Dimensions||19.5 × 12.5 × 2.5 cm|