In World War II the Japanese Army invades Malaya and Jean Paget, a young Englishwoman living in Malaya, is taken prisoner with other English women and children then forced on a brutal seven-month death march. They trudge from camp to camp, always turned away, leaving graves behind them and secretly learning to trade jewellery for medicines and extra food just to survive. Jean meets Australian P.O.W. Joe Harman, who tells her about the Gulf Country, the vast stock stations and a town called Alice – a town of lovely homes, green lawns, water and gardens. He steals food for the women, is caught by the Japanese and condemned to death by lashing and crucifixion. The women are forced to watch. After their guard dies, they are taken in by a village and work with the locals to grow rice for the Japanese army.  After the war, Jean tries to put the nightmare behind her. Then an unexpected inheritance inspires her to return to Malaya to give something back to the villagers who saved their lives.  There she learns astonishing news which lead her to travel to the desolate Australian outpost called Willstown, where she takes on an unusual challenge –  to make Willstown a town like Alice.