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On The Beach

(55 Posts)
CoteDAzur Sat 15-Sep-12 19:12:01

Has anyone read On The Beach?

I'm about 10 pages in and finding it a bit laughable.

Do I persevere?

exoticfruits Sat 15-Sep-12 19:28:06

I don't know- I read it about 30 years ago but it may be dated if I tried it now.

trudat Sat 15-Sep-12 19:32:48

I liked it. I think with any science fiction written half a century ago or more, set in the present or recent past, it's easy to get lost in the details which seem silly.

It's not as good imo, as Brave New World, but it has stayed with me. Maybe as I read it while pregnant.

goodiegoodieyumyum Sat 15-Sep-12 19:34:10

Why do you find it laughable, it was written when people had a real fear of a nuclear war, I like Nevil Shute but I suppose most of his novels are a bit dated.

CoteDAzur Sat 15-Sep-12 19:40:46

I'm at the very beginning, but found it unrealistic and yes, a bit laughable that they are all soon going to die but the guy's wife is concerned about his career and so he wouldn't think of refusing an assignment, which would take him away from his wife & newborn baby for months. It doesn't occur to him that as certain death approaches, all pretense of civilization will break down and his wife & baby will be in danger.

Have I misunderstood something?

goodiegoodieyumyum Sat 15-Sep-12 20:13:16

I suppose you could say the characters find it easier to live life as if it will continue rather than face the reality of the situation. Sorry it is a long time since I read the book.

A town like Alice is my favourit Nevil Shute much more believable.

SorrelForbes Sat 15-Sep-12 20:48:07

This is one of mine and DH's favourite books (he is a Submariner). I loved the way the characters just try and continue with their normal lives in the face of inevitable death. The last few chapters are just heartbreaking.

fivegomadindorset Sat 15-Sep-12 20:49:48

I balled my eyes out, persevere. don't forget it was written in a completely different era.

maudpringle Sat 15-Sep-12 20:50:41

One of my favourites.
The last few chapters are haunting.

utahforever Sat 15-Sep-12 20:56:30

I love this book, one of my all time favourites.

Persevere. You will not regret it - and the slow build up to the ending is absolutely heartbreaking.

CoteDAzur Sat 15-Sep-12 20:58:47

"Try to continue their lives" is one thing but these people seem delusional. I mean, who would worry about their career when they everyone will soon die? Wouldn't anyone worry more about leaving his wife & newborn baby behind as certain death approaches?

I'm a big sci-fi & speculative fiction reader, btw, so no stranger to post-apocalyptic books or even some suspension of disbelief. But are we really supposed to believe that life goes on sweet and orderly as before when everyone knows that the end is near?

alcibiades Sat 15-Sep-12 21:37:32

It was published in 1957 and set in 1963, so it does reflect a lot of the social attitudes of those times, which in many ways are very different from the present day.

It's been many years since I last read the book, but I'm ancient old enough to have not found some of the characters' behaviours unbelievable. It was written at a time when the world was still recovering from WWII, and where the concept of "normality" and "duty" was still influential.

Some of the characters understood that there was nothing that could be done and they weren't going to survive, and some were in complete denial. I don't think any of the characters really believed that life would go on as sweet and orderly as before.

biffnbuster Sun 16-Sep-12 11:32:17

One of my favourite books and films, don't give up on it !

exoticfruits Sun 16-Sep-12 11:33:56

I think I will read it again.

CoteDAzur Sun 16-Sep-12 12:07:46

I'm still reading it - at 20% now.

It has a Never Let Me Go vibe - people acting in an unnatural way (contrary to human nature) when faced with approaching death.

PomBearWithAnOFRS Sun 16-Sep-12 12:28:54

I love On the Beach, I cry from about half way through, and am howling like a baby by the end, every single time. It is so sad. I think it's a bit like "Brief Encounter" - it is very very moving, but it's a very British, Stiff Upper Lip way, in spite of being written with Aussie and American characters. It's all about doing what's right and being strong and Keeping Calm and Carrying On, and for me that's what gives it so much poignancy and makes it even harder to bear. It's a pretty unique take on doomsday/apocayptic fiction too, and as far as I know it's the only book where everyone is dead at the end, with none of the "single little settlement/group of brave survivors hanging on grimly and yet looking forward" so beloved of dystopian authors.
It does tend towards the "cosy catastrophe" throughout, until you gradually realise that there is nobody left, everybody is gone.
There's something to be said for them restraining them selves from having sex too, being faithful to a spouse, even though it's obvioius she's dead, is old fashioned by today's standards, but had meaning when the book was written and is, again, the Right Thing to do iyswim.

SorrelForbes Sun 16-Sep-12 20:36:18

Pom. Your post has just given me a huge lump in my throat. I need to re-read this very soon.

Yes it's dated but I like it a lot. Must read it again actually, as I can remember v little about it. Agree that 'Alice' is better but it's still a decent read from a time perhaps more innocent than ours. I found it more believable than 'The Death Of Grass' where everybody seems to be raping and killing each other within minutes.

I loathed 'Never Let Me Go.' 'On The Beach' is much better than that.

CoteDAzur Sun 16-Sep-12 21:05:59

Maybe not minutes and maybe not killings and rapes right away, but you would expect crime to significantly increase when there is no future to look forward to and no extended jail sentences as deterrent. You would expect shortages and famine.

What you would not expect is people drinking like fish & partying like feckless teenagers, all the while being perfect law-abiding citizens.

CoteDAzur Sun 16-Sep-12 21:07:28

I'd prefer not to have known the end, by the way.

alcibiades Sun 16-Sep-12 22:11:14

I think the main point is that people didn't want a breakdown in society. They knew from the outset that there was little chance of survival and wanted their last days/weeks/months to be as good as they could make them. There's an analogy, if you like, with people diagnosed with a terminal disease - most of them just want to have as much fun as possible in their remaining days.

The ending of the story is pretty much telegraphed early on. It's not a post-apocalypic story, and it's not particularly a sci-fi story. It's about people, individually and collectively, managing that journey to the ineviitable in different ways.

I suspect that, if faced with the end of the world, I'd probably want to drink a lot and party like a teenager too. It would sure beat raping, killing and weeping!

CoteDAzur Sun 16-Sep-12 22:38:12

What would you use for money to party if you haven't been working for a long time? Also, shouldn't there be liquor shortages?

Or are we to think that producers & transporters of alcoholic drinks are the only people working full time. And for free.

It's not a bad book, but reads like a fairy story.

joanofarchitrave Sun 16-Sep-12 22:44:31

I'd agree about the unreality, but then the message pretty much throughout Nevil Shute's books IMO is that work is the only thing worth doing. I don't know if he really felt this, but it seems so pervasive that he must have. He clearly has difficulty working out what women who spend time at home instead of doing a job actually are like at all - he has noticed that women sometimes want to have children instead of work, but can't really get his head round the idea. And all men, in all circumstances, work all the time, except very occasionally they have a hobby which looks remarkably like a slightly different job, or they help other men with their work, which is a relaxation to them as it's not their own job.

Therefore it made sense to him that people would just carry on working, even in the circumstances he is writing about.

CoteDAzur Sun 16-Sep-12 22:44:31

"people didn't want a breakdown in society"

Nobody wants a breakdown in society, but when there are food shortages, you steal to feed your children. You steal other things, too, if it means your family will survive the winter. Or if you are the one others are stealing from, you would feel inclined to delivering some quick justice to the thieves.

For most people, short term individual benefit to themselves and loved ones always trumps long term benefit to society. (See vaccination debates with worried parents brushing off concerns about herd immunity).

Anyway, I will read a bit more so I have more to say smile

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