A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute was originally published in 1950. My paperback copy is 277 pages long. From the book description, "A Town Like Alice tells of a young woman who miraculously survived a Japanese 'death march' in World War II, and of an Australian soldier, also a prisoner of war, who offered to help her--even at the cost of his life..." This is ultimately a love story, but it is not a romance novel.
In the novel a young woman, Jean Paget inherits a large sum of money. She had been a Japanese prisoner of war along with some other women and children in Malaya during WWII and wanted to repay the villagers who sheltered her by digging a well. While there she learns that the young Australian, Joe Harmon, who was crucified for stealing food for them, survived and she went to Australia to try and find him. Joe, at the same time, went to England to find Jean. With the help of her London solicitor, in spite of himself, they eventually find each other. Amazon link
This is a lovely book and I highly recommend it.
"Oh yes...It was the most extraordinary thing, as you say. The Japanese commanders marched them from place to place, till finally they were allowed to settle in a village on the east coast somewhere, and there they lived for the rest of the war. There was a very fine girl who was their leader; she spoke Malaya fluently. She wasn't anybody notable; she'd been a shorthand typist in an office in Kuala Lumpur."
"The best she could do was to recollect the words of a prayer that they had used at school sometimes. 'Lighten our darkness, O Lord, and of Thy great mercy...' That was all she could remember, and she repeated it over and over to herself that afternoon. Her darkness had been lightened by the well diggers."
"[T]hey had an opening ceremony when Jean washed her own sarong and all the women crowded into the wash house laughing, and the men stood round in a tolerant circle at a distance, wondering if they had been quite wise to allow anything that made the women laugh so much."