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On the Beach by Nevil Shute - April, 2014  

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  1. 1. What did you think of this book?

    • 5/5 Loved it!
    • 4/5 Really liked it.
    • 3/5 Enjoyed it.
      0
    • 2/5 It was ok, or meh.
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    • 1/5 Really disliked it.
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 & at the end Peter refers to her as an it, no parent would think or speak of their child as an it. 

I'd totally forgotten about that until I just read your post but it's one of the things I'd noticed when reading too - he did it in the middle as well and it was the one thing that didn't ring at all true for me. :)

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Kidsmum wrote: ........ I also thought that it was unlikely that John Osborne would be so reckless with his life when he had an elderly mother whom he must have felt responsible for.

 

You know, somehow that didn't sink in with me, and you are absolutely right.  Especially considering how he did manage with her, in the end.

But I'm trying to remember the exact sequence.....was he actually that reckless before she died, or did the actual racing come afterwards?  It's been a month now since I read the book.  :blush2:

 

Also the Holmeses baby had no personality at all she might as well have been a rock for all she featured in the story & at the end Peter refers to her as an it, no parent would think or speak of their child as an it..

 

 

I know, that depersonalization really grated on me as well.  Could that have been part of his way of coping?  I can hardly imagine it though!

Peter annoyed me, in general.  It wasn't until the end he showed real care for Mary.  Well, mostly.

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I don't have the book with me at the moment but I'm fairly certain the race was before his Mum's death. I hadn't thought about it like that when I read it but it was odd behaviour. :)

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I'd totally forgotten about that until I just read your post but it's one of the things I'd noticed when reading too - he did it in the middle as well and it was the one thing that didn't ring at all true for me. :)

 

I thought perhaps he hadn't had any children himself but just had a quick look on Wikipedia & apparently he married & had two daughters called Heather & Shirley...... hopefully he didn't refer to them as its when they were growing up  :doh:

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You know, somehow that didn't sink in with me, and you are absolutely right.  Especially considering how he did manage with her, in the end.

But I'm trying to remember the exact sequence.....was he actually that reckless before she died, or did the actual racing come afterwards?  It's been a month now since I read the book.  :blush2:

 

 

I know, that depersonalization really grated on me as well.  Could that have been part of his way of coping?  I can hardly imagine it though!

Peter annoyed me, in general.  It wasn't until the end he showed real care for Mary.  Well, mostly.

 

Yes the races took part while she was still alive , he didn't come across as a thoughtless person so maybe he'd have got her blessing first before he took part  :smile:

 

That's funny that you found Peter annoying, it was Mary that irritated me the most. It was her childlike denial of what was going to happen that really annoyed me because she refused to face facts she placed the burden of responsibility firmly on Peter's shoulders which i didn't think was fair.

 

One of the things that book made me think about was what would i want to do if i found out the world was going to end in a few months & i know i would definitely want to spend all my time with my family & like Mary & peter i'd want to die together as a family so we could all say our goodbyes.

 

I haven't had a chance to read through all the thread but i wondered how people felt about Dwight not allowing Moira to come with them on the submarine at the end . I was quite taken aback that he  left her behind to die on her own after all she'd done for him.I mean he admits that she made the last few months of his life bearable & she went to such trouble to get him the pogo stick for his daughter & then in the end he puts duty & sticking to the rules before kindness & compassion.

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I don't have the book with me at the moment but I'm fairly certain the race was before his Mum's death. I hadn't thought about it like that when I read it but it was odd behaviour. :)

 

Yes, husband thought so as well.  You all can't be wrong! :D

 

 

I thought perhaps he hadn't had any children himself but just had a quick look on Wikipedia & apparently he married & had two daughters called Heather & Shirley...... hopefully he didn't refer to them as its when they were growing up  :doh:

 

I knew he'd had children, at least one, as one of the links up thread spoke of a daughter that mentioned that the Brit anti-nuclear movement may have been spurred on by this book.

 

 

Yes the races took part while she was still alive , he didn't come across as a thoughtless person so maybe he'd have got her blessing first before he took part  :smile:

 

That's funny that you found Peter annoying, it was Mary that irritated me the most. It was her childlike denial of what was going to happen that really annoyed me because she refused to face facts she placed the burden of responsibility firmly on Peter's shoulders which i didn't think was fair.

 

One of the things that book made me think about was what would i want to do if i found out the world was going to end in a few months & i know i would definitely want to spend all my time with my family & like Mary & peter i'd want to die together as a family so we could all say our goodbyes.

 

I haven't had a chance to read through all the thread but i wondered how people felt about Dwight not allowing Moira to come with them on the submarine at the end . I was quite taken aback that he  left her behind to die on her own after all she'd done for him.I mean he admits that she made the last few months of his life bearable & she went to such trouble to get him the pogo stick for his daughter & then in the end he puts duty & sticking to the rules before kindness & compassion.

 

Hah, re Peter and Mary's irritation levels...........

I thought that they sort of fed off of each other.  Maybe a product of the times but she was the "helpless female" and he the "strong" one.  But Shute showed the flaw in that typical scenario by the very thing that annoyed me.  Which was Peter's abruptness with Mary, and what I considered his running off and leaving her literally holding the baby. 

 

Here she was, stuck out in the country with no transportation and not much in the way of diversion.  Of course she'd dwell on things in and around the home.  And who wants to think about your family dying in a few months.  All through no fault or reason you had anything to do with.  That'd be enough to drive anyone into fantasy-land.  Denial. Denial. Denial.  It was her only way not to go crazy.

 

It bugged me too, a lot, that Dwight didn't bring Moira.  But.  He didn't allow any of the men to bring their S.O.'s.  I don't think it was only on account of regulations and sticking to them.  Can you imagine the hysteria (especially) on the part of the civilians when he ditched the submarine?   Chaos would have been awful.  The military has rules and regs for a good reason, and hysterical civilians in a chaotic situation is one of them. 

 

Actually, why did they think they had to ditch the sub at all?  That's what I don't understand.  It isn't like an enemy would come along and misuse it. 

What thinks thee?

Edited by pontalba

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Actually, why did they think they had to ditch the sub at all?  That's what I don't understand.  It isn't like an enemy would come along and misuse it. 

What thinks thee?

x

I didn't quite get that either to be honest.

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1- Who was your favourite character? Were there any characters whom you disliked?

I liked Dwight and Moira the most; Dwight because of his honourable nature and faithfulness to his dead wife, and Moira partly because she respected this and didn't push him but also because of her spirit.

 

2- Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?

I enjoyed the end of the book the most as it was probably the only part I felt quite engaged with.

 

3- Did you like the writing? What did you think of the way the story was told?

I do quite enjoy Nevil Shute's style of writing, but I find it quite dispassionate and so I often don't really feel engaged with his characters.  Given the apocalyptic nature of the story, I found the calm relating of people living their everyday lives up until the end quite touching.

 

4- Was this the first book you've read by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

I read The Pied Piper for a previous Reading Circle and, like this book, I did enjoy it but didn't feel terribly engaged by it.  I would read more, but wouldn't rush to get hold of another.  Funny enough, I had been sure that I had already read this book as my parents definitely owned it, but didn't remember a single thing about it so I must have been mistaken.  I think I must have been mixing it up with another book, particularly since there was a scene I was (mis)remembering with a young woman walking towards an older man on a beach and he was thinking that many young women made the mistake of wearing black thinking it made them more sophisticated.  So the beach must have fooled me!  (I wonder if it was a scene from The Pillow Fight by Nicholas Montserrat?  This is going to drive me mad now!)

 

5- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

The way that poor baby was referred to and treated!  "It"?  Really??  And not even holding the baby as she  died; I know how ill she was feeling was given as the reason for that, but I found it inhuman and inhumane.

 

6- Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

Yes, it was by no means one of my favourite books, but a good read nonetheless.

 

 

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Ooshie, I agree, Shute's style is quite dispassionate. That is a good way to put it.

 

I'd seen the film years ago, and watched it again after we both read the book.  I think I've kind of mixed up some of the versions. 

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Hah, re Peter and Mary's irritation levels...........

I thought that they sort of fed off of each other.  Maybe a product of the times but she was the "helpless female" and he the "strong" one.  But Shute showed the flaw in that typical scenario by the very thing that annoyed me.  Which was Peter's abruptness with Mary, and what I considered his running off and leaving her literally holding the baby. 

 

Here she was, stuck out in the country with no transportation and not much in the way of diversion.  Of course she'd dwell on things in and around the home.  And who wants to think about your family dying in a few months.  All through no fault or reason you had anything to do with.  That'd be enough to drive anyone into fantasy-land.  Denial. Denial. Denial.  It was her only way not to go crazy.

 

It bugged me too, a lot, that Dwight didn't bring Moira.  But.  He didn't allow any of the men to bring their S.O.'s.  I don't think it was only on account of regulations and sticking to them.  Can you imagine the hysteria (especially) on the part of the civilians when he ditched the submarine?   Chaos would have been awful.  The military has rules and regs for a good reason, and hysterical civilians in a chaotic situation is one of them. 

 

Actually, why did they think they had to ditch the sub at all?  That's what I don't understand.  It isn't like an enemy would come along and misuse it. 

What thinks thee?

That's a good point about Mary being stuck in the country with too much time to think i hadn't thought of it like that. I suppose as the wife of someone who was probably away at sea on a regular basis i thought she'd be more resilient but i guess under normal circumstances she would have had the use of a car so she wouldn't be so isolated. From a readers point of view though & being female i always prefer women characters to be strong & resourceful because i think in real life most women are  :smile:

 

Yes i really felt for Moira when he turned her down, i take your point that he'd already refused to take on board other civilians so he didn't feel that he could then make an exception in Moira's case but i rather got the impression that even if Moira had been the only one that wanted to come with them he would have refused her, he didn't agonise over his decision at all, it was just a case of.... no can do. :o

 

I think the sinking of the sub goes back to the point about people behaving in an insane way even though they weren't mad & i think for Dwight he felt that he had to be a good captain & go down with his ship, perhaps you really have to be in the navy to really understand that mentality  :D Personally i'd rather be with the people who i loved & who loved me at the end  :friends3:

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Personally i'd rather be with the people who i loved & who loved me at the end  :friends3:

x

Me too :friends3:!

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That's a good point about Mary being stuck in the country with too much time to think i hadn't thought of it like that. I suppose as the wife of someone who was probably away at sea on a regular basis i thought she'd be more resilient but i guess under normal circumstances she would have had the use of a car so she wouldn't be so isolated. From a readers point of view though & being female i always prefer women characters to be strong & resourceful because i think in real life most women are  :smile:

 

Yes i really felt for Moira when he turned her down, i take your point that he'd already refused to take on board other civilians so he didn't feel that he could then make an exception in Moira's case but i rather got the impression that even if Moira had been the only one that wanted to come with them he would have refused her, he didn't agonise over his decision at all, it was just a case of.... no can do. :o

 

I think the sinking of the sub goes back to the point about people behaving in an insane way even though they weren't mad & i think for Dwight he felt that he had to be a good captain & go down with his ship, perhaps you really have to be in the navy to really understand that mentality  :D Personally i'd rather be with the people who i loved & who loved me at the end  :friends3:

 

 

x

Me too :friends3:!

 

There is no doubt that I'd rather spend the last days with loved ones.  And, I think in a way Dwight's loyalty was still torn between his wife and children('s memories) and Moira.  So, there is that in the equation.  However, he was a career Naval Officer.  With that comes all the years of training and inculcation of military rules and regulations.  Career Officer.....that is a lot of background to overcome. 

 

Plus, there is the fact that they thought the radiation cloud would dissipate in 5 years or so.  Add to that the fact that they didn't know whether or not there would be any survivors, say in Antarctica that might be able somehow to make their way up North.  Those possible survivors could potentially used the submarine and it's weapons on other possible survivors, and start another war. 

 

As I recall, the other Sub Commanders scuttled their subs as well. 

There is the distinct possibility that there were scientific explorers in Antarctica that could have utilized the technology.  If they could have survived at all.  Besides, it's standard procedure not to leave any weapons or technology that a potential enemy can use against you or yours.  I think that is the premise Dwight was working under.

 

So, in the final analysis, not a form of madness or 'going down with the ship', but practicality and adhering to standing orders. 

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Hmm...I don't know that I could do it though.  I suppose that's why I'm not a military commander.  Well, among other reasons.  

 

I mentioned it in a review on my book list, but I just finished reading Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank.  I found it to be a great companion to On the Beach.  They were published right around the same time, but deal with the subject in very different ways.  If you liked On the Beach but felt it was a bit unrealistic in their reactions, you really might enjoy Alas, Babylon.  It's interesting to compare the two, anyway.

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I'm reading The Postman by David Brin right now.  Pockets of civilization that have survived a limited nuclear war mostly seem to end up in some sort of feudal state fighting one another in this one.  Which I suppose is more realistic in the case some people surviving, and if the bombing didn't go as far as in Shute's book. 

 

 

Kidsmum wrote:   From a readers point of view though & being female i always prefer women characters to be strong & resourceful because i think in real life most women are  :smile:

 

 

I prefer it as well, but it isn't always the case.  Although fiction loves to present women as being strong because that is what readers want to see.  All people, men and women are a mixture of strength and weakness and it doesn't depend on gender, IMO. 

 

And really, when I stop and think about it, Mary was strong in her own way.  As irritating as she was. :) 

It took a certain sort of strength to shut out the truth of what was happening, will power at least.  I just think that it made it all the more difficult for Peter, and that was not fair, I believe.

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 I prefer it as well, but it isn't always the case.  Although fiction loves to present women as being strong because that is what readers want to see.  All people, men and women are a mixture of strength and weakness and it doesn't depend on gender, IMO. 

  

 

Very true  :smile:

 

I very much enjoyed reading On The Beach so i shall check out  Alas Babylon & The Postman. I haven't read much of this type of fiction but i did enjoy the Wool trilogy by Hugh Howey & when i was a child i read Z for Zachariah  Robert O'Brien; it's about a girl who survives a nuclear war in America as the valley she lives in remains untouched , of course it might seem out dated now, i was about 10 when i read it but i remember it as being a really gripping read  :readingtwo:  :D

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thank you for nominating this book. I read the blurb on the back cover and was not relishing the read at all but found it to be one of the most moving and (yes I will say it...) hopeful of interpretations of a post apocalyptic world.

The calm, the spareness of the writing, seemed to highlight and bring out the true pinnacle of humanity. Works of this genre often show Mankind striving to kick against the inevitable, Humans basest traits are uncovered as they claw for survival, but I never felt that we were going to get a happy ever after in this story. Tom Cruise was not going to save the day! It made me think of what I have heard about those moments before death, people who have no hope of survival (who later do survive!!!) talk of a peace and acceptance which comes over them. I think many of the characters were able to appreciate their place as parts of the nature and cycle of life, they talk of the future still when other lifeforms develop and take their place on Earth. Their lives have not been in vain, but as part of the grand scheme. It was interesting to see a flip side. I had great admiration for the characters, who upheld their values and went "not with a bang but a whimper". (interestingly the last line of Eliots "The Hollow Men")

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.

Philosophically interesting and, as many have mentioned, how would we react if our world was in this situation? 

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Betty, what an insightful post!  And, I think you've nailed a greater part of what Shute's message was.  His hope that Men were not barbarians, and we would go down with dignity.  That, in this case, railing against the Fates had no purpose and would actually negate the meaning of our lives in a way. 

He didn't completely ignore the baser elements, but noted and passed them by, showing the larger goodness of Man. 

Hopeful, yes!

 

Shute's writing style is the same in the only two of his I've read, this and A Town Like Alice.  Which, I have to admit, the latter I did not appreciate the second time around.  I believe it deserves a third go-round. :)

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Kidsmum, I really enjoyed Wool as well.  I think I've read 8 or 9 of them.  Not sure how many there are, in all.  I hadn't heard of Z for Zachariah, but it sounds interesting.  There is another YA trilogy that I've read part of, and enjoyed.....can't remember the name or author.  But I do know where it is on the shelf, will look it up later and post the names. :)

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Very true  :smile:

 

I very much enjoyed reading On The Beach so i shall check out  Alas Babylon & The Postman. I haven't read much of this type of fiction but i did enjoy the Wool trilogy by Hugh Howey & when i was a child i read Z for Zachariah  Robert O'Brien; it's about a girl who survives a nuclear war in America as the valley she lives in remains untouched , of course it might seem out dated now, i was about 10 when i read it but i remember it as being a really gripping read  :readingtwo:  :D

If you liked Wool, try The Dark Age by Jason Gurley.  I know I've said this before and sound like a broken record, but I found it to be quite moving.  :)

 

 

thank you for nominating this book. I read the blurb on the back cover and was not relishing the read at all but found it to be one of the most moving and (yes I will say it...) hopeful of interpretations of a post apocalyptic world.

The calm, the spareness of the writing, seemed to highlight and bring out the true pinnacle of humanity. Works of this genre often show Mankind striving to kick against the inevitable, Humans basest traits are uncovered as they claw for survival, but I never felt that we were going to get a happy ever after in this story. Tom Cruise was not going to save the day! It made me think of what I have heard about those moments before death, people who have no hope of survival (who later do survive!!!) talk of a peace and acceptance which comes over them. I think many of the characters were able to appreciate their place as parts of the nature and cycle of life, they talk of the future still when other lifeforms develop and take their place on Earth. Their lives have not been in vain, but as part of the grand scheme. It was interesting to see a flip side. I had great admiration for the characters, who upheld their values and went "not with a bang but a whimper". (interestingly the last line of Eliots "The Hollow Men")

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.

Philosophically interesting and, as many have mentioned, how would we react if our world was in this situation? 

Very well-put.  I think that's a great assessment.

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If you liked Wool, try The Dark Age by Jason Gurley.  I know I've said this before and sound like a broken record, but I found it to be quite moving.   :)

 

Thanks Dtr i shall check it out on Amazon  :smile:

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Kidsmum, the trilogy I spoke of is this:

 

Life As We Knew It

This World We Live In

The Dead & The Gone  all by Susal Beth Pfeffer

 

I've only read the first one, but thought it was well worth acquiring the second and third. :)

 

 

dtr, I'm going to look The Dark Age up.  Thanks. :)

 

Heck, I've downloaded it....:D

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Kidsmum, the trilogy I spoke of is this:

 

Life As We Knew It

This World We Live In

The Dead & The Gone  all by Susal Beth Pfeffer

 

I've only read the first one, but thought it was well worth acquiring the second and third. :)

 

 

Thanks Pontalba, i shall check them out  :smile:

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So you already had it downloaded?  So funny.  Let me know how you like it.

 

Will do, as soon as I finish present read. :)

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Sadly have given up on this book.. I just found it so dull and couldn't warm to his unemotional, slow and unrealistic approach to the end of the world. I have read some of the above comments and can maybe appreciate what he was trying to achieve and that he was hoping that this would be how people might behave. But whilst there would be pockets of stoic people who might behave this way the world would invariably be dominated by people desperately trying to live that bit longer and also plenty taking advantage of the situation too.

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