On the Beach

Thursday, March 2, 2017

On the Beach 
By Nevil Shute 

In Australia, residents await a wave of radiation that’s slowly been making its way south after the rest of the world participated in a nuclear World War III. Although the basis for the story is bleak, the humanity of the details makes this an incredibly personal read. It’s not about the bombs and the battles; it’s about the quiet personal moments between spouses and friends as they decide what to do with their remaining months of life.  

There’s poignancy in the futility of the little things, planting a garden, sewing a button and a jacket. Though there is technically no point in talking about the future, people can’t seem to help themselves. They worry about their children’s teething issues even though there’s a much worse fate in store for them. 

Most people continue to do the things that they love. I think what struck me the most about this book was the civility of people even though they knew what was coming. There was no murder and looting, instead the majority of the people continue their lives as normal, focusing a little more on family and leisure than they would have in everyday life. They knew it was coming, but that didn't change who they were as people. There were a few people who did things a bit more extreme, like racing at top speeds, because they had nothing to lose, but even those people did it in a structured way. The funny thing is, even though they know it’s the end of the world, they can’t help succumbing to normal things like falling in love. 

BOTTOM LINE: Beautiful and heartbreaking, this classic provides a look at society on the brink of extension. It took me a minute to embrace the style of storytelling, which felt a bit stilted, but after that I was sucked in. 

“If what they say is right we're none of us going to have time to do all that we planned to do. But we can keep on doing it as long as we can.”


TNBBC Super Mod said...

Oh man. I read this book quite a few years ago and really loved it. The characters drove me crazy, just sitting there waiting for end! If you enjoyed this book, I strongly recommend Lost Everything by Brian Francis Slattery.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

TNBBC - I will definitely have to check that one out!

Unruly Reader said...

I'm usually not drawn to apocalyptic literature, but the way you describe people's brave response to the threat, it makes me want to read this book.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Unruly Reader - It really just felt like a story about normal people who just happened to be in the midst of an apocalypse.