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On the beach by Nevil Shute

On the beach (original 1957; edition 1966)

by Nevil Shute

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3,142951,785 (3.84)236
Title:On the beach
Authors:Nevil Shute
Info:Pan Books (1966), Mass Market Paperback
Collections:Your library, Read, Second-hand, Storage
Tags:Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Science Fiction, Australian Fiction, Setting Australia

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On the Beach by Nevil Shute (1957)

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Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
It is the 1960s (the book was written in 1957) in Australia. The “short war” was just over a month long. The result of that war: radiation all over the northern hemisphere that has killed everyone. That radiation is making its way south to envelope the planet.

It was good. Most of the book, I'd actually rate “ok”, but the end really picked up, I thought, as the characters knew the end was coming. What would you do with the last months, weeks, and days of your life? I didn't like two of the main characters: Dwight and Moira. Well, I didn't mind Dwight as much, but I really didn't like Moira, so I wasn't nearly as interested in them. I liked Peter, Mary and Jennifer much more. But, there seemed to be more focus on Dwight and Moira, unfortunately for me. The ending upped my rating just a touch, though. ( )
  LibraryCin | Mar 31, 2015 |
I found it incredibly unbelievable. I just don't believe that society wouldn't completely fall apart, much like the Mad Max franchise. The prose was awful, telling instead of showing, stilted dialogue. I have to wonder if this wasn't more propaganda to get people used to the idea that a nuclear war wouldn't be so bad, if one wasn't in the direct line of fire. ( )
  encephalical | Mar 24, 2015 |
What do you do when the end of the world is silently approaching? A group of Australians know the end is coming to Melbourne, but keep living life. The northern hemisphere was destroyed by a nuclear war between all of the nuclear powers: US, UK, China and Russia. The resulting radiation is slowly moving south to cover the rest of planet.

The book is dated and feels old. But it does not pretend to be anything but the late 1950s with the technology available then. There are no cell phones, no internet, no international calls. News travels slowly, just as the toxic radiation is moving slowly southward.

Maybe there is some hope.... ( )
  dougcornelius | Mar 14, 2015 |
On the Beach by Nevil Shute tells the story of the last month’s in the lives of the last people on earth, and although slightly dated, still makes chills run up and down my spine. Nuclear war has come and gone, there is no one left alive in the earth’s northern hemisphere and clouds of radiation are slowing flowing south.

From the very beginning of the book, the people know that their time is limited, the story starts on January 27th and they know that the end will come sometime by the end of August or early September. We follow a small assortment of people living in and around Melbourne, Australia, through these end times and see them live out their time with dignity and honor. There are times when one or another gets a little shaky, but overall I was very moved by how they handled what was coming, of course the war was a year or so in the past so they had had time to work through their feelings of disbelief and anger. Slowly the cities of the southern hemisphere are blacked out by radiation poisoning and eventually the sickness arrives and the last surviving people on earth ready themselves for the end.

In Nevil Shute’s On the Beach, the world ends with a whimper not a bang, but this was nevertheless a shocking and terrifying read. I can imagine that this book had a powerful impact when it was released in the early 1960’s during the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis and such a future seemed possible. The author’s vision of a kinder, gentler end of life struck a cord with me, but sadly, I fear that people in today’s world of terrorism, religious intolerance and partisan politics would not go with so quietly or with such nobility. ( )
7 vote DeltaQueen50 | Feb 6, 2015 |
It’s a long time since I last read this book and I’m afraid it’s dated quite a bit and I found it even more unappealing this time round. I think its traction is the idea behind the book, the idea of people waiting with the certain knowledge that before long they’ll be dying of radiation just as everyone in the northern hemisphere has. This foundation for the novel naturally has some sort of macabre appeal to us all with the possibility of a nuclear war still very much there, not to mention the growing certainty that we are destroying ourselves through our inability to take the necessary measures to combat climate change.

I feel, though, that the characterisation is rather wooden. Moira is the highly-strung but fundamentally decent young woman, Robert the reliable husband and naval officer and Dwight the deep-feeling, bereaved American. There wasn’t anything in these people to engage the reader, especially as Shute tends to skate along the surface, the characters’ thoughts emerging only through what they say to each other rather than Shute giving us more direct insights into their thinking. He obviously went for the sentimental quite often, for example having both Peter and Mary and Dwight talking about a future that they know won’t happen. This didn’t make it more poignant for me but more contrived.

Plot-wise there wasn’t a lot driving this book which might seem contradictory when you think it’s covering the end of the world for humans but the forays in the submarine, starting with the one to South Australia and then up the Queensland coast are just mundane. And having various characters tell other characters about the trips makes it very repetitive.

I suppose some of the interest today is the way it may give us a glimpse of Australian values in the mid 1950s although I wonder how accurate a glimpse this is. For example, Moira’s mother talks of her grandfather settling in Australia so she’s a third generation Australian yet she talks of visiting England as ‘going home’. And then there’s the sexism with Peter having to explain to his wife that they’re all going to die, something any half-intelligent human would have understood ages ago. But what does Mary say when he shows her the pill she can take when the radiation sickness sets in? ‘Who will look after Jennifer [the baby]?’ And when told the baby will die too, not being immune to the radiation, she exclaims ‘That’s beastly!’ as if she hadn’t realised this already. And why might her husband not be there at the end? because he’s off in a submarine on a totally useless expedition, something he’s very pleased to be doing. Then there’s the doctor who’s operating on a woman to give her a few extra years of life even though they’ve all got only three months –and even though Dwight buys presents for his family, he still says the doctor’s crazy. So, these characters are gormless, unbelievably deluded and have questionable priorities, not what Shute intended the reader to think. Put it this way, his theory that just about all people would make plans for a future that they know doesn’t exist stretches my credulity. The only thing I liked in Shute’s philosophy was that the authorities were giving out suicide tablets so that people wouldn’t suffer. I wish they’d get around to doing that now for terminally ill people.
Notwithstanding all I’ve written, the ending is inevitably poignant even if Shute doesn’t manage it that skilfully. For example, when Peter kills his baby, Shute simply writes ‘He gave the baby the injection in the arm’ and that’s it – no reaction is mentioned. The fact that Shute refers to the baby, Jennifer, as ‘it’ most of the time perhaps shouldn’t make it surprising that he spares no words for her death. ( )
  evening | Dec 16, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nevil Shuteprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Powers, Richard M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river...

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

--T.S. Eliot
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Lieutenant Commander Peter Holmes of the Royal Australian Navy woke soon after dawn.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345311485, Mass Market Paperback)

"The most shocking fiction I have read in years. What is shocking about it is both the idea and the sheer imaginative brilliance with which Mr. Shute brings it off."
They are the last generation, the innocent victims of an accidental war, living out their last days, making do with what they have, hoping for a miracle. As the deadly rain moves ever closer, the world as we know it winds toward an inevitable end....

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:06:26 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A novel about the survivors of an atomic war, who face an inevitable end as radiation poisoning moves toward Australia from the North. The most shocking fiction I have read in years. What is shocking about it is both the idea and the sheer imaginative brilliance with which Mr. Shute brings it off. They are the last generation, the innocent victims of an accidental war, living out their last days, making do with what they have, hoping for a miracle.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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