I read Shute's No Highway last year. It was the first Shute I had read, and happens to be the book before A Town Like Alice. It suffers from the same omniscient narrator issue, and has the same unnecessary ending with the decision to write the book. I just saw it as a stylistic quirk, and went with it.
My general feeling from Alice is that Shute was a great story-teller. It almost doesn't seem to matter what he's talking about, he has the knack of keeping you interested.
The casual racism is really a cause for disappointment with the past rather than with Shute. I think he was generally more aware of it than most - as the Malaya section shows - and I believe his earlier book The Chequer Board covers the subject in some depth, but it's so ingrained that he can't help doing it himself. The attitudes to the role of women aren't exactly modern, either, but at least Jean is a strong and forward-looking character.