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On the Beach by Nevil Shute
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On the Beach (original 1957; edition 1983)

by Nevil Shute

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3,002881,901 (3.84)205
Member:delta351
Title:On the Beach
Authors:Nevil Shute
Info:Ballantine Books (1983), Edition: 50699, Mass Market Paperback, 278 pages
Collections:Your library
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Work details

On the Beach by Nevil Shute (1957)

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English (84)  Danish (3)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (88)
Showing 1-5 of 84 (next | show all)
On the Beach is probably the most famous atomic war book of the 1950s and 60s, and Nevil Shute's best known book, along with A Town Like Alice. He has a unique vision of the apocalypse, more like catching smallpox or the flu as radiation the silent killer slowly spreads around the world exterminating all living things. Shute's characters are exceedingly sober and responsible, and those that cross the line or don't redeem themselves get their due. Yet in the end no amount of sobriety can save them and you are left wondering what is life for. Partying? Racing cars? Scientific exploration? Religious piety? Fishing? Making babies? These were questions facing a generation of WWII vets in the 40s and 50s who were home from the war with its adrenaline highs and who found civilian life boring and slow. Shute's characters act out of duty, even when it's obvious it no longer makes sense to do so. It was this same blind obedience to duty that caused the war. He is advocating, indirectly, the dereliction of duty - rebellion. Just on the cusp of the 1960s, On the Beach was a book of rebellion for the sake of life. ( )
  Stbalbach | May 23, 2014 |
Amazing post-nuclear war novel. A must read. It raises so many questions. ( )
  steadfastreader | Mar 18, 2014 |
A new documentary comes out about the making of the 1959 film
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/booksandartsdaily/fallout2c-the-mak...

Shute published arguably Australia's most important novel - important in the sense of confronting a mass international audience with the defining issue of the age. On the Beach, the story of humankind's thermonuclear extinction, sold more than 4 million copies. Shute was the first genuinely popular mainstream novelist to envision apocalypse, and one of only a handful to see the horrific mission through by leaving no survivors - just a silent irradiated planet, adrift in space.

Shute was a Briton. But no novel could be more explicitly Australian than On the Beach, set in his new home town of Melbourne. Nor could any novel make such provocative creative use of our distance from the rest of the world: as the last habitable continent, Australia is suddenly the most important place on Earth, at the very moment of its greatest impotence and ignorance, awaiting dooming winds from an incomprehensible war in the northern hemisphere.

Advance copies of On the Beach had been sent to a host of politicians, including the next US president, John F Kennedy, and to senior military officials. Some had offered startlingly candid endorsements, including consecutive secretaries of the US Air Force, Stuart Symington and Thomas Finletter. "Every American should read On the Beach," stated Symington, at the time Joseph McCarthy's Senate nemesis. "I hope it is fiction," responded Finletter, later Kennedy's ambassador to NATO. "Are you sure it is?" Readers wanted to find out. Selling 100,000 copies in its first six weeks, On the Beach even displaced Peyton Place from the top of bestseller lists.

Some critics complained that the book's resolutely low-key depiction of human extinction was unconvincing: people just wouldn't die that way. Yet readers identified readily with the characters' quiet dignity. This conventional novel about unconventional weapons became "the most influential work of its kind for the next quarter of a century and the only one most people ever read" - as the critic Paul Brians puts it - precisely by being simple:

Shute directly addresses the most primal fears of the human race which has spent most of its history denying or compensating for the fact of personal death, and does so with a relentlessness which the complex technique of a more sophisticated writer might have muted. For once there are no distractions: no invading aliens, no super fallout shelters to protect the protagonists, no struggle back from a dreadful but exciting postwar barbarism. There are simply a man and a woman reaching the agonizing decision to kill their only child in its crib as the rest of the human race expires round them.

http://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2007/june/1268876839/gideon-haigh/shute-messe...
  grahamtritt | Dec 24, 2013 |
What a terrible, in the original sense of the word, quietly-spoken (and somehow more powerful for it) meditation on the destruction of life on this planet due to the stupidity of uncontrolled militarism.

About a quarter of the way in I was finding this frustrating, turgid even, and put it aside. Not even the classic status, immensely powerful subject matter and Australian setting seemed able to overcome the datedness of the text. I couldn't buy the calm, the lack of looting and general violence, the stiff-upper-lippedness of everyone involved.

Having taken time off to read a few other books, I came back to it on what was in effect a part-time basis, reading just 10 or so pages each night. That, along with the fact that about halfway through some of those niggling questions, e.g. why aren't there refugees flooding down from northern climes? begin to be dealt with, did the trick for me.

In the end, breathtaking. I certainly finished reading it with a whimper. ( )
  Vivl | Dec 20, 2013 |
A sad, thoughtful book about the end roof humanity on earth. ( )
  jvgravy | Oct 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 84 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nevil Shuteprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Powers, Richard M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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
Dedication
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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."
THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
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)

» see all 10 descriptions

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