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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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1- Who was your favourite character? Were there any characters whom you disliked?  Dwight (probably) was my favourite.  I liked Moira too...I think her behaviour was understandable under the circumstances.  There were no characters I actively disliked, but I wasn't overkeen on Mary.

 

2- Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?  The race.  What I found interesting was how people died during the race, and spectators were quite blasé about it, because they all knew it wasn't going to be long before they all died anyway.  In fact, in a way it was a kind of choice to die doing something they enjoyed, rather than dying of the radiation.

 

3- Did you like the writing? What did you think of the way the story was told? Yes, I liked the writing, although I thought it was a bit dated.  I enjoyed the way the story was told, although I didn't think it was entirely believable.  Everyone was so dignified and respectful in the face of death, and sadly I fear that in reality there would be anarchy, rioting and looting.  So it didn't strike me as realistic in the way that other dystopian novels have.

 

4- Was this the first book you've read by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?  Yes, it was the first book I've read by this author.  I wouldn't rush out to read more books by Nevil Shute, but equally it didn't put me off reading more by him (that kind of reads like a politician's reply :D)

 

5- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with? Not really.  As with all books, I enjoyed some parts more than others, but there were no bits that seemed tedious.

 

6- Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?  I'd give it 7/10, so yes pretty enjoyable.

 

Ruth, I liked Dwight and Moira too, but I think my real favorite was John Osborne....loved his race as well.  What hutzpah!

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Normal?  Well, in my opinion, yes.  Normal in an extremely abnormal situation.  What else were they supposed to do?  Run out in the street, crying, shouting and railing against Fate?  Sit in a corner and waste away with a depression so deep they couldn't see over the edge?  Stay drunk for the duration?  Fat lot of good that would have done!

I really see your point.  I think of the hypothetical question, "if you had a year left to live, what would you do?"  This book is the ultimate answer to that question.  How many if given this information in real life, say for reasons of illness or what have you, would answer this question "I'd sit around and dwell on the misery of my reality."  Some might, but what a waste of a year!  What state would they be in by the end of the year?  

 

I think the average person would want do what these people did.  Maybe they would actually live their dream like John Osborne racing, or imagine doing so if they couldn't physically like Mary, who could never fully realize her hopes for domestic bliss, did or do the next-best thing like Dwight, whose dream of being reunited with his family was an impossible one, did shopping for his family or the young man did leaving the submarine to die fishing in the shell of his hometown.  Maybe they would finally figure out who they were, who they wanted to be, like Moira, and spend their final days in selfless acts of love.  Some would surely swing to the opposite end of the spectrum, looting and pillaging as they talked about at the hardware store, and I'm sure a fair few would drink themselves to the end like the men at the club.

 

I think that if it was not just my last year, but everyone's last year, I wouldn't waste a second.  I don't think what they did made them crazy, I think it made them human.

Edited by dtrpath27

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It just feels to me that they were all at very least in that state of numbness that follows a great shock. And yes although it can be argued it is a 'healthy' coping mechanism to block it all out for a bit and function on autopilot, there is also a lot of 'why' and 'why me' or 'why us' and 'isn't there anything I can do' type anger and questioning. There is only one time in the book when Moira, when extremely drunk, who gives voice to that kind of normal angry questioning, but at no other point do any of them do that. They do not refer directly to what is happening. They don't even say 'radiation sickness' it is 'that cholera thing' and they all say 'there isn't much time left' while planning what they are going to do next year, and the year after. Even at the end Moira goes and takes the pill 'to join Dwight with his family' not to die. There is vast collective refusal to face reality, even though they all know it on some level, as evidenced by both the deaths at the race and the response to them.

 

And they are all complicit in this vast refusal to face reality. Moira never says to Dwight, "now listen you daft git, I don't want to die never having known a man, so forget your wife and kids for a moment because they are dead and do something with the girl in your arms". No she goes right along with his delusion and goes and finds some one to make a pogo stick for his daughter. Its not exactly entirely sane.

 

 

To go back to Pontalba's question about the red boxes of pills / injections - while I am profoundly against the concept of euthanasia this is one circumstance in which I can understand the necessity. They are all going to die, no matter what. Even if some survive for a bit longer than the others, the levels of radiation are just too high and going to remain too high for too long for any one to survive. (Although I think Chernobyl has taught us that despite dangerously high levels of radiation plants and even animals do in fact survive unexpectedly well, but that was not known at the time of this book being written. At that time it was thought / known as a fact that nothing survived long term exposure to certain levels of radiation). As a result the choice would be to end it painlessly before you got too sick to do it, or to risk lingering on and dying slowly of some or other cancer, if you survived that long, or more likely in an agonisingly slow death from the nausea and diarrhoea radiation sickness causes. I'm glad it was a choice though and not mandatory. I think that if there were an organised 'killing' by requiring every one to take the pills at a certain point I would have objected violently. 

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I think that if it was not just my last year, but everyone's last year, I wouldn't waste a second.  I don't think what they did made them crazy, I think it made them human.

 

 

That's about my line of thinking as well. 

 

 

It just feels to me that they were all at very least in that state of numbness that follows a great shock. And yes although it can be argued it is a 'healthy' coping mechanism to block it all out for a bit and function on autopilot, there is also a lot of 'why' and 'why me' or 'why us' and 'isn't there anything I can do' type anger and questioning. There is only one time in the book when Moira, when extremely drunk, who gives voice to that kind of normal angry questioning, but at no other point do any of them do that. They do not refer directly to what is happening. They don't even say 'radiation sickness' it is 'that cholera thing' and they all say 'there isn't much time left' while planning what they are going to do next year, and the year after. Even at the end Moira goes and takes the pill 'to join Dwight with his family' not to die. There is vast collective refusal to face reality, even though they all know it on some level, as evidenced by both the deaths at the race and the response to them.

 

 

This makes me think of the Kubler-Ross 5 stages of grief.  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

The stages are not necessarily in any set order, and can re-occur, so it isn't so strange that being drunk would cause one to regress to another stage, and with defenses down, as when drinking.....it seems logical that anger would come out. 

 

Agreed, they were in different levels of denial, but in the case, I don't think that was a bad thing. 

 

 

 

And they are all complicit in this vast refusal to face reality. Moira never says to Dwight, "now listen you daft git, I don't want to die never having known a man, so forget your wife and kids for a moment because they are dead and do something with the girl in your arms". No she goes right along with his delusion and goes and finds some one to make a pogo stick for his daughter. Its not exactly entirely sane.

 

 

Ahh, now.  If I'm not mistaken........and I'd have to do a hunt for page numbers, don't Peter and Mary refer to Moira as a sort of "party girl"?  I can't remember if they used that particular expression, but that's the way I took whatever phrase they used to mean that.  That would have been the era's code for the girl has slept around. 

So, no virgin she.  And, to me, Moira going after that pogo stick showed just how much she loved Dwight.  She'd go to any length to please him, anything to make him feel.........more "normal", to feel better, to help feed the illusionary illusion.

That's love. Unselfish. 

 

To go back to Pontalba's question about the red boxes of pills / injections - while I am profoundly against the concept of euthanasia this is one circumstance in which I can understand the necessity. They are all going to die, no matter what. Even if some survive for a bit longer than the others, the levels of radiation are just too high and going to remain too high for too long for any one to survive. (Although I think Chernobyl has taught us that despite dangerously high levels of radiation plants and even animals do in fact survive unexpectedly well, but that was not known at the time of this book being written. At that time it was thought / known as a fact that nothing survived long term exposure to certain levels of radiation). As a result the choice would be to end it painlessly before you got too sick to do it, or to risk lingering on and dying slowly of some or other cancer, if you survived that long, or more likely in an agonisingly slow death from the nausea and diarrhoea radiation sickness causes. I'm glad it was a choice though and not mandatory. I think that if there were an organised 'killing' by requiring every one to take the pills at a certain point I would have objected violently.

 

 

Oh, I remember all the old films of the 1950's and '60's that had radiation doing all sorts of things, making people into some sort of monsters, zombies, etc  So, certainly that was the mind set then.

 

I fully agree with you re the euthanasia business.   Actually I thought it was bad enough being government sponsored, but as you say, not mandatory........that would have been awful, and much more than I could have taken.

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It just feels to me that they were all at very least in that state of numbness that follows a great shock. And yes although it can be argued it is a 'healthy' coping mechanism to block it all out for a bit and function on autopilot, there is also a lot of 'why' and 'why me' or 'why us' and 'isn't there anything I can do' type anger and questioning. There is only one time in the book when Moira, when extremely drunk, who gives voice to that kind of normal angry questioning, but at no other point do any of them do that. They do not refer directly to what is happening. They don't even say 'radiation sickness' it is 'that cholera thing' and they all say 'there isn't much time left' while planning what they are going to do next year, and the year after. Even at the end Moira goes and takes the pill 'to join Dwight with his family' not to die. There is vast collective refusal to face reality, even though they all know it on some level, as evidenced by both the deaths at the race and the response to them.

 

And they are all complicit in this vast refusal to face reality. Moira never says to Dwight, "now listen you daft git, I don't want to die never having known a man, so forget your wife and kids for a moment because they are dead and do something with the girl in your arms". No she goes right along with his delusion and goes and finds some one to make a pogo stick for his daughter. Its not exactly entirely sane.

 

Yes, but a state of numbness that follows a great shock is a far cry from insanity.  Also, denial is not the same thing as shock.  They are two very separate parts of the grieving process.  Whether or not denial is healthy is debatable, but is it a common reaction?  Yes. Does it serve a clear purpose in this case?  Yes.  Without it, how could they carry on?  Was it a conspiracy to which they were all party?  Unless the conspiracy was simply being humans having a human reaction to an unspeakable horror, then no.

 

As for Moira, I felt as though she'd been there, done that in regards to the whole town trollope thing.  She wanted to end her life with dignity and with love, which I think is what she was looking for all along.  The pogo stick was not about the pogo stick, it was about a selfless act of love and kindness.  She did it because it was important to him.  Completely unconditional, she stood to gain nothing in return. I don't find unconditional love to be insane.

Edited by dtrpath27

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Ahh, now. If I'm not mistaken........and I'd have to do a hunt for page numbers, don't Peter and Mary refer to Moira as a sort of "party girl"? I can't remember if they used that particular expression, but that's the way I took whatever phrase they used to mean that. That would have been the era's code for the girl has slept around. 

 

Peter says 'party girl' and Mary says '"She doesn’t, you know. It’s all on the surface."' :) so although she acted 'loose' she wasn't. 

 

But later in the book Mary and Moira are talking about Dwight:

 

She picked up the poker and began playing with it. "If it was for a lifetime it’d be different," she said. "It’d be worth doing her dirt if it meant having Dwight for good, and children, and a home, and a full life. I’d go through anything if I could see  a chance of that. But to do her dirt just for three months’ pleasure and nothing at the end of it—well, that’s another thing. I may be a loose woman, but I don’t know that I’m all that loose." She looked up, smiling. "Anyway, I don’t believe that I could do it in the time. I think he’d take a lot of prising away from her."

"Oh dear," said Mary. "Things are difficult, aren’t they?"

"Couldn’t be worse," Moira agreed. "I think I’ll probably die an old maid."

 

And then she and Dwight are discussing going away for the fishing:

 

He stared across the crowded restaurant. "I’m going home quite soon," he said. "I’ve been away a long

time, but it’s nearly over now. You know the way it is. I’ve got a wife at home I love, and I’ve played

straight with her the two years that I’ve been away. I wouldn’t want to spoil that now, these few last

days."

"I know," she said. "I’ve known that all the time." She was silent for a minute, and then she said,

"You’ve been very good for me, Dwight. I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t come

along. I suppose half a loaf is better than no bread, when you’re starving."

He wrinkled his brows. "I didn’t get that, honey."

"It doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t want to start a smutty love affair when I’m dying in a week or ten days’

time. I’ve got some standards, too—now, anyway."

 

So she drank, but wasn't loose, she would have done anything to have had Dwight to herself, to get married and all that goes with it, is 'starving' for love and all that he is refusing her because he is married, but is resigned to his devotion to his wife.

 

Just to go back to my theory that they are all a bit insane -

 

They talked a little of the cruise and of conditions at Seattle and in Queensland. Finally the doctor said,

"I’ll probably look in tomorrow afternoon with one or two things you’d better take. I’ve got to go to

Dandenong; my partner’s operating at the hospital and I’m giving the anaesthetic for him. I’ll pick up

the stuff there and look in on my way home."

"Is it a serious operation?"

 

"Not too bad. Woman with a growth upon the stomach. She’ll be better with it out. Give her a few more

years of useful life, anyway."

 

Now that is a serious denial of reality - for a doctor to be operating to remove a growth to give her a 'few more years of useless life' above every one else he must realise both the stupidity and profound pointlessness of putting a person through such a surgery at this point.

 

Dwight's considered opinion:

 

 

"He’s nuts," said the commander.

 

"Why? Because he’s making you stay in bed?"

 

"Not that. He’s operating on a woman at the hospital tomorrow so that she’ll have some years of useful life ahead of her."

 

So they consider his actions 'nuts' but not their own :)

 

Then later Dwight and Moira are talking about his family and he says:

 

He turned to her. "I suppose you think I’m nuts," he said heavily. "But that’s the way I see it, and I can’t seem to think about it any other way. At any rate, I don’t cry over babies."

 

Then a little bit later on the same morning:

 

They went on happily planning their garden for the next ten years, and the morning passed very

quickly. When Moira and Dwight came back from church they were still at it. They were called into

consultation on the layout of the kitchen garden. Presently Peter and Mary went into the house, the

former to get drinks and the latter to get the lunch.

The girl glanced at the American. "Someone’s crazy," she said quietly. "Is it me or them?"

"Why do you say that?"

"They won’t be here in six months’ time. I won’t be here. You won’t be here. They won’t want any

vegetables next year."

Dwight stood in silence for a moment, looking out at the blue sea, the long curve of the shore. "So

what?" he said at last. "Maybe they don’t believe it. Maybe they think that they can take it all with

them and have it where they’re going to, someplace. I wouldn’t know." He paused. "The thing is, they

just kind of like to plan a garden. Don’t you go and spoil it for them, telling them they’re crazy."

"I wouldn’t do that." She stood in silence for a minute. "None of us really believe it’s ever going to

happen—not to us," she said at last. "Everybody’s crazy on that point, one way or another."

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"Couldn’t be worse," Moira agreed. "I think I’ll probably die an old maid."

It was that phrase that led me to believe she was a virgin.  I know unmarried people did sleep together in the 60s, but it was still pretty much considered that only loose women slept with men before marriage if they weren't engaged... or at least had the expectation that they would get engaged at some point.  I took maid to mean virgin, coming from the word maidenhead.  :)

 

I still can't agree that they were all insane though.  Maybe Mary was bordering on it, but I still think their behaviour was denial/a coping mechanism rather than full-blown insanity.  But that's another thing that is so good about this novel - apart from death nothing is black and white, which is why we take different interpretations from the story. :)

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It was that phrase that led me to believe she was a virgin. I know unmarried people did sleep together in the 60s, but it was still pretty much considered that only loose women slept with men before marriage if they weren't engaged... or at least had the expectation that they would get engaged at some point. I took maid to mean virgin, coming from the word maidenhead.

 

 

I agree with you - but she also says she was 'starving' which I took to mean that she knew what she wanted to do, and had Dwight been a different person she would have done whatever it took to do it. She wasn't the party girl, but did certainly wanted to experience 'it' and would have if it wasn't for Dwight's commitment to his wife and kids, whom he is unable to visualise any other way other than still alive and waiting for him.

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CG, I think that Shute was being deliberately ambiguous with Dwight and Moira's exchanges you mention above. (and thanks for finding them!) :)  Remember this was written in 1957.  "Nice" girls didn't sleep around......at least didn't admit to it.  Of course it happened, but society was a great deal more repressed then, and I think both Shute's writing style, and the character's actions reflect this.

 

Regarding the times one character referred to another as "crazy"...lets face it, we've all called someone else "crazy".  That doesn't mean we think they are Clinically Insane.  There is a wide gap there that covers a multitude of behaviors.  And as far as the doctor operating on that woman with the growth, I thought, at the time, that it was purely hope that ran him.  Doctors are trained to save lives, take an oath to save the life,  under any circumstances. 

 

And come to think of it, it seems to me that Hope is what was the underlying process going on with regard to all the character's denials. 

 

Hope is a uniquely human experience.  We hope against all odds, against all evidence that we will live.  Doesn't matter if a radiation cloud is bearing down on us, or a freight train is 10 feet from us.........we hope.  We hope for life, it's just inbred.

 

Janet, yes!  there is no black and white there.  Shute presents a range of behaviors, and allows the reader to, maybe not judge, but to think for themselves.  Decide what they think on their own. 

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By the way, sorry if this isn't the right place to mention it, and I don't want to derail this discussion (which is making for really interesting reading :) ), but I was wondering if anyone else had seen the 1959 film adaptation, with Gregory Peck as Dwight and Ava Gardner as Moira.  There are a few changes....

Dwight and Moira do have a sexual relationship in the film

and Fred Astaire plays Peter, so the character is obviously older in the film than the book.  It's interesting viewing though, although Nevil Shute was apparently displeased with it.

 



It just feels to me that they were all at very least in that state of numbness that follows a great shock. And yes although it can be argued it is a 'healthy' coping mechanism to block it all out for a bit and function on autopilot, there is also a lot of 'why' and 'why me' or 'why us' and 'isn't there anything I can do' type anger and questioning. There is only one time in the book when Moira, when extremely drunk, who gives voice to that kind of normal angry questioning, but at no other point do any of them do that. They do not refer directly to what is happening. They don't even say 'radiation sickness' it is 'that cholera thing' and they all say 'there isn't much time left' while planning what they are going to do next year, and the year after. Even at the end Moira goes and takes the pill 'to join Dwight with his family' not to die. There is vast collective refusal to face reality, even though they all know it on some level, as evidenced by both the deaths at the race and the response to them.

 

 

I think this is what I had a problem with.  On the one hand, I take the point that, what else could they do?  But the whole pretence of what they would be doing next year for instance....Moira was the only one who really seemed to get a bit frustrated at them pretending as though they would even be there the next year, which seemed odd to me. 

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Ruth, I'm picking up the DVD at the library today, but probably won't watch till husband finishes the book.  I've seen the Gregory Peck version, years ago.  I liked it, but don't remember a lot about it. 

 

One thing that threw me in reading it was that in the book, Moira was a thin blonde.....which Ava Gardner, ain't!  lol   And, it seems to me that in the film the submarine ended up in San Francisco Bay, didn't it?

 

There is a newer version that I haven't seen.  Armand Assante and Rachel Ward are in that one. 

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I wondered how it must have felt to  Lt. Sunderstrom to go on land and find such an innocent and strange thing to be "sending" the signal.  We know he couldn't have run into any live people, but the hope was still there.  It was like another death.

x

I fully agree with you. It made them all realise it's really the end :(.

 

I found Mary to be quite interesting.  I think with Mary, the denial was definitely a survival mechanism, but also, at some point, a conscious decision.  She was a new mother with her sweet little home, loving husband, and all the hopes and dreams that come with the territory.  It's one thing to know that you as an adult are to suffer a horrible fate, but to hold your newborn baby and know that she, too, has the same sentence with no chance at life or happiness would be enough to drive a person mad.  I think the reality was so unbearable, that she simply chose to ignore it completely so that she could give her child some semblance of the life that she wanted for her.  How determined she must have been!  I know someone who had quite a difficult life.  Often, he used to say "I didn't like reality, so I created one of my own."  It was either go mad, or only acknowledge what he was able to deal with emotionally.  I think that was Mary's burden as well.

x

That makes sense, actually :).

To me finding the source of the signal was like watching a candle burn out.  No matter how unlikely, it was a tiny beacon of hope, that one in a million chance that things weren't quite as grim as they knew in their hearts they were.  Such a poignant moment. Finding the source, I feel, was the beginning of the end.

X

I agree.

CG, have you read any of John Wyndham?  His style, as we've mentioned in this thread, is very similar to Shute's style. 

And, Wyndham's endings are more on the hopeful side. :D

x

Sounds interesting, I might have to look him up (I have The Kraken Wakes on my wishlist).

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Athena wrote: Sounds interesting, I might have to look him up (I have The Kraken Wakes on my wishlist).

 

Don't get me wrong, I really did find a lot to appreciate in The Kraken Wakes, and enjoyed reading it.  However, The Day of The Triffids was to me the best of his books.  Maybe it's because it was the first, and I was quite young when I read it.  But it's held up through subsequent readings, so I don't think that's it. 

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I think this is what I had a problem with.  On the one hand, I take the point that, what else could they do?  But the whole pretence of what they would be doing next year for instance....Moira was the only one who really seemed to get a bit frustrated at them pretending as though they would even be there the next year, which seemed odd to me. 

But she was cut of a different cloth, wasn't she?  I think Mary's husband got aggravated with her denial a fair bit, that's why he had to escape to work and such.  I don't really fault him this.  He was a good man who loved his family and really wanted to protect them, but it was just a bit much sometimes.  I think he wished his wife could handle things differently.  His acceptance of this came right at the end with the park bench.  So touching!

 

Eta:  I agree that Mary was probably the closest to being insane.  I wonder if she's played that way in the movie...

 

Maybe she wasn't at first, but the kill your baby thing was starting to push her that way.  I suppose if I had to do that, I'd go a little off, too.

Edited by dtrpath27

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But she was cut of a different cloth, wasn't she?  I think Mary's husband got aggravated with her denial a fair bit, that's why he had to escape to work and such.  I don't really fault him this.  He was a good man who loved his family and really wanted to protect them, but it was just a bit much sometimes.  I think he wished his wife could handle things differently.  His acceptance of this came right at the end with the park bench.  So touching!

 

Eta:  I agree that Mary was probably the closest to being insane.  I wonder if she's played that way in the movie...

 

Maybe she wasn't at first, but the kill your baby thing was starting to push her that way.  I suppose if I had to do that, I'd go a little off, too.

 

Yes, she was :)   I suppose I imagine that more people would feel like Moira, and less would feel like, say, Mary.  But of course I suppose none of us can really know how people would react in such a situation (and I sure hope that we never get to find out!)

 

I can understand how the idea of killing her baby was so abhorrent to her - it would be to anybody, even with the knowledge that the baby was going to die an even more horrible death if her parents didn't kill her.  I should think being in that position would be enough to push anyone close to the edge, or over it.

 

Ruth, I'm picking up the DVD at the library today, but probably won't watch till husband finishes the book.  I've seen the Gregory Peck version, years ago.  I liked it, but don't remember a lot about it. 

 

One thing that threw me in reading it was that in the book, Moira was a thin blonde.....which Ava Gardner, ain't!  lol   And, it seems to me that in the film the submarine ended up in San Francisco Bay, didn't it?

 

There is a newer version that I haven't seen.  Armand Assante and Rachel Ward are in that one. 

 

I always remember thinking that the casting was a bit unusual, in that neither Ava Gardner nor Fred Astaire fitted the characters they played, although it worked quite well.  I happened across the Armand Assante version the other week on tv, but it was almost over - I only found it by accident - so I didn't watch it, but am going to keep an eye out for it coming on again.

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I've tried to remember if he has been in any other dramatic roles, and I seem to remember something about it, but can't find any evidence by googling.  I don't remember any of the actors aside from Peck and Gardner. 

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I agree with you - but she also says she was 'starving' which I took to mean that she knew what she wanted to do, and had Dwight been a different person she would have done whatever it took to do it. She wasn't the party girl, but did certainly wanted to experience 'it' and would have if it wasn't for Dwight's commitment to his wife and kids, whom he is unable to visualise any other way other than still alive and waiting for him.

 

Yes, but I thought that she wanted to experience love making with Dwight, as opposed to sex with whoever was before.  I don't consider her to be a "loose woman" though.  I think it was part of her experiencing the 5 stages of grief.  Anger/rebellion, against "them", the "system". 

 

I wonder if she would have loved Dwight, and I believe she really did, if he had given into her sexually.  Would he have fallen off of his pedestal in her eyes?  Do you thing it would have disillusioned her with him?

 

Again, there is Shute's deliberate ambiguity. 

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Yes, but I thought that she wanted to experience love making with Dwight, as opposed to sex with whoever was beforeLOL didn't I just say that? I thought that is what I said :) I don't consider her to be a "loose woman" though.  I think it was part of her experiencing the 5 stages of grief.  Anger/rebellion, against "them", the "system". 

 

I wonder if she would have loved Dwight, and I believe she really did, if he had given into her sexually.  Would he have fallen off of his pedestal in her eyes?  Do you thing it would have disillusioned her with him?

 

Again, there is Shute's deliberate ambiguity. 

 

Hmmm I think if it was normal life she wouldn't even have pursued him. Married = off-limits, but under these circumstances .... she is willing to try anything including making her bikini top fall off accidentally on purpose. She pretty much throws herself at him really, right from their first meeting. I think that there is some ambiguity in just how 'loose' she was. It is hinted here and there she might have been doing more with whomever, but there is also clearly a firm moral base to Moira as well. Perhaps it is more just that she flirts an awful lot, especially when she drinks, rather than going all the way. I think that in some way the drinking was an attempt to get past her own moral inhibitions because she wanted to experience certain things, but still had not managed to do so. In the end she resigns herself to dying an 'old maid' because the one who has captured her heart has coped with the situation by embracing a fantasy in which his wife and children are still alive and waiting for him. She deliberately buys into his fantasy in order to have whatever little of love she could have, seeing as how being 'loose' hadn't worked for her, on any level ie it was neither letting her have a sexual experience (because of her moral inhibitions) nor getting her closer to Dwight (because of his moral inhibitions).

Edited by CuriousGeorgette

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Has any one else noticed the one major inconsistency in the book? 

 

You mean the suicidal tendencies vs. prolongation of life?

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nope.... I will give you a clue ..... 

 

 

 

The farmer turned to where the separator was still running. "That’s right. We’d be in a pretty mess but
for the electricity." He slipped an empty churn into the stream of skim milk deftly and pulled the full
churn away. "Tell me, Mr. Holmes," he said. "Don’t they use big digging machines to get the coal? Like
bulldozers, and things like that?" The officer nodded. "Well, where do they get the oil to run those
things?"
"I asked about that once," Peter said. "They distill it on the spot, out of the brown coal. It costs about
two pounds a gallon."
"You don’t say!" The farmer stood in thought. "I was thinking maybe if they could do that for
themselves, they might do some for us. But at that price, it wouldn’t hardly be practical …

 

 

 

"Remember to turn off the electricity at the main," she said. "I mean, mice can chew through a cable
and set the house on fire."
"I’ll do that," he said.
She looked up at him with tears in her eyes. "Will you do what has to be done for Jennifer?"
He stroked her hair. "Don’t worry," he said gently. "I’ll do that"
He filled the hot-water bags and put them in the bed, tidying it and making it look fresh as he did so.
Then he helped her into the bedroom. He went into the kitchen and put the kettle on for the last time,
and while it boiled he read the directions on the three red cartons again very carefully.

 

 

IF they are the last place in Australia to get the radiation (except for Tasmania which is mentioned somewhere) .... why is the electricity still on? 

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I guess it depends on the source, I'd thought they must have a local one.

 

Added in Edit:  Since the event was so predictable, I'd have thought anyone would have secured whatever they needed to keep the power going.  Thus the local source.

Edited by pontalba

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um but the implication in the first quote was that it was not that local ... and required a fair bit of labour .. if every one was nearly dead or dying especially those further away ...  who was excavating/feeding brown coal into the generators?

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Well, with the advance warning, they could have excavated more than usual, whilst able.  As a practical matter.

 

Also, as with any novel, there is a certain suspension of disbelief.  I think Shute wanted to dwell on the more emotional aspects of the situation.  Plus, of course, put out his own warning regarding our technological advances.

 

Just as he didn't dwell on the worse aspects of human nature.  He mentioned, briefly, the looting and drunkenness going on, but then went on to what he considered the finer aspects of human nature.  Love, loyalty, duty.

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