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On the beach by Nevil Shute

On the beach (original 1957; edition 1966)

by Nevil Shute

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3,5331251,495 (3.86)286
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

Work details

On the Beach by Nevil Shute (1957)

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» See also 286 mentions

English (121)  Danish (3)  Hebrew (1)  All (125)
Showing 1-5 of 121 (next | show all)
In his book Rumors of War and Infernal Machines, Charles Gannon argues that "the discourse of nuclear literature has traditionally relied upon images because a personally meaningful quantitative assessment of the bomb’s annihilatory powers is impossible. Its size dwarfs and makes mute any discursive attempt to establish a connection between individual experience and the overwhelming total reality of a nuclear explosion." I definitely think this is true when it comes to On the Beach. It's the images that stuck with me between when I read this in high school (for class), reread it in college (for myself), and rereread it to teach it: the cloud of radioactive particles drifting south, the empty cities of North America, the seaman going out for one last fishing trip, the roads taken back over by horses. Shute's perspective on nuclear annihilation is oddly beautiful: even while nuclear war comes from the worst parts of our nature, he uses it to shine a light on our best parts. Everyone in this book does their duty up to the end, even those who didn't have any kind of duty to begin with. I started to cry when I read the last chapter, and that's the first time I've cried at a book in a long while. We no longer fear nuclear war the way we did in 1957, but the book is still a testament to how we all ought to confront death.
2 vote Stevil2001 | Mar 31, 2017 |
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.” ( )
1 vote bookworm12 | Mar 2, 2017 |
The setting is 1963 in Melbourne, Australia and its surrounding towns, two years after a nuclear World War III. The radioactive fallout has been moving through the hemisphere killing all living things in its wake. Australia (which didn't participate in the war) and New Zealand are expected to be the last victims. This is an interesting look at how these last survivors cope with, or deny, what's coming and the choices they make about how to live out their last months.

I really enjoyed this book, despite being distracted by the differences between life in 2013 and life as it was known by the author in 1957, when the book was published. Smoking on a submarine for example seemed so odd it completely pulled me out of the story for a bit. I knew nothing of this book when I chose it, expecting something more like A Town Like Alice. Despite my surprise, I found this book worthwhile and will read another Nevil Shute book. His portrayal of people is kind, yet realistic. ( )
1 vote LeslieHurd | Jan 11, 2017 |
There has been a war. The northern hemisphere is a radioactive wasteland. Australia has survivors, but the radiation is heading their way.

I laughed when it talked about making gas being too outrageously expensive to do - It would cost $2.00 a gallon!

What would you do if you knew that come September everyone would be dead? Would go on pretending that it wasn't coming? Where would you want to be at the end? ( )
  nx74defiant | Nov 5, 2016 |
My literary tastes lean more maximalist, and I have a more pessimistic view of humanity, so the fact that I enjoyed this understated novel about the last remaining survivors from a global nuclear apocalypse facing certain death was truly surprising. Like the radioactive dust that's circling the globe in a gentle death vise, Nevil Shute creates a tightly written novel about facing one's inevitable doom with dignity that's no less gripping.

The fate of everyone in On the Beach is pretty much sealed from the get-go, and yet you can't help but root for them and admire their respect for each other and grace in facing the end until the very last page. It makes you think: what would you do if you only had a few more months after some global cataclysm? Would we all slide into one kind of Purge-esque carnal anarchy, or would we keep going about our business, doing the chores, and tending the gardens, and still being neighborly and kind? Shute shows us the possibility of the latter scenario and it's utterly believeable--even to this cynic. Not often you get such a chilling, dark premise in a book, and finish it feeling strangely uplifted. ( )
1 vote gendeg | Oct 13, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 121 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nevil Shuteprimary authorall editionscalculated
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
First words
Lieutenant Commander Peter Holmes of the Royal Australian Navy woke soon after dawn.
"I couldn't bear to - to just stop doing things and do nothing. You might as well die now and get it over." ... "I'd like to do things right, up to the end."
As time passed, the radioactivity would pass also ... these streets and houses would be habitable again ... The human race was to be wiped out and the world made clean again for wiser occupants."
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
A very serious book, intending to give warning - how easily such total international destruction could happen, and how catastrophic the consequences. Portrays the last living humans, in Australia, awaiting their certain approaching end.
Haiku summary

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:44 -0400)

(see all 5 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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