Set during and immediately after World War II, A Town Like Alice is both a love story and a war story. It spans two decades and three continents. The story begins with the capture of a group of civilian women by the Japanese and follows the nightmare of their captivity in the jungles of Malaya. It is during this time that one of the women, Englishwoman Jean Paget, meets a cheerful and laconic Australian prisoner of war, Joe Harman, who hails from Alice Springs. When he is tortured for a simple act of kindness, she believes that he has died. Later, after the war has ended, she discovers that he didn't die, and sets out to find him in Australia. Meanwhile, he travels to England to find her. The two are eventually reunited in the rugged outback of Australia.