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On the Beach by Nevil Shute - April, 2014  

10 members have voted

  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.
      0
    • 1/5 Really disliked it.
      0


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That's too bad that you didn't enjoy it.  :(  You know, I come across books like that, too, where I can see/appreciate what others like about it and it might be a perfectly fine book, but I just can't do it.  Lord of the Rings is like that for me.  My Tolkien fan of a husband almost turned me out over that one! ;)

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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.

 

Chaliepud,

Oh well, that's life, (fortunately) we don't all react to things in the same way, it'd make for fairly dull conversations. :)  I am sorry you found it such a slog though.  And I do think your take on the book is interesting, and appreciate your posting it. :)

 

dtr.....LOL! 

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Charliepud, I totally agree, that I imagine Humankind would react like this in reality! Sad isn't it?! I'm sure there would be powerful people trying to hole up in bunkers with tinned goods!. 

Great that negative reactions to books are discussed too.

Dtr...let me join your club. I have started "The Hobbit" on numerous occasions and couldn't get into it! Normally I'm not averse to fantasy/sci-fi. In fact I had the same problem with "Dune" recently! I try and give a book a fair number of pages though, I remember the strange first section of "Captain Corelli" and glad I kept with that one. 

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I have been haunted lately by On The Beach. More specifically by my image of Mary -- self-centered, selfish, unrealistic, living a fantasy, never mentioning the nonesistent future, seemingly in total denial, and impossible to be in the same house with. But most specifically by the garden chair she coaxed and wheedled out of Peter -- the garden chair sitting now so nicely in the corner of the garden as we read of these events long ago. Perhaps one of us could be sitting and reading in that very chair.

Mary did not strike me as the noblest of characters in the book on first reading, perhaps even seeming like the least noble of the many stoic people we know around her. But that chair. I can't erase that chair.

To me that garden chair is the symbol of Mary's happiness in her last days.

Mary found her happiness in imagining and creatingwhat a pretty garden could look like and then in thoughts of how to make it happen. Only that much -- the creative imagining -- was what was allotted to her in the time remaining, but just that much of gardening was sufficient to make her happy. So that is what she devoted her thoughts and imagination to.

As much as Peter evaded her presence, he did love her deeply and took seriously her wish for the garden chair to round out her vision of the garden. He knew how much it would mean to her. And when he put the chair in place, she did get to see it before the end and be happy with it. I have the feeling that Peter made her happy in the only way she could find happiness in those days.

I think she knew that the fruition of her efforts would be in the coming year. and not be seen by anyone. She did, after all, immediately ask "Is that it?" when the first signs of sickness arrived at her family. So she knew, but devoted herself to happy thoughts in her remaining days, much the same as others occupied themselves with activities that were pleasing to themselves and looked to the coming year.

I am writing from recollection of the book finished a while ago, so all that may sound fanciful and sentimental, but that is the new memory of Mary that I am haunted by -- of a woman finding happiness in her passion, with a devoted and loving husband to respect and sustain her. And an enduring garden chair as symbol and monument of their life and love.

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That is a fair point, Paul, it was nice she found happiness in building her garden. At the time of my second reading, I found it a bit silly but reading your post makes me realise, for me a lot of fun of things is also derived from looking forward to it, it isn't just the doing of the thing.

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.......................................... 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.

 

I do believe there would be a lot of that sort of behavior.  But.  Something just occurred to me with reference to that.  I wonder, in this particular case, a case where everyone on earth was doomed.....not just the "weak" and sick ones, but everyone.  With no hope of hiding before the radiation sickness took them.  Maybe it is possible that if we knew, knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were all doomed, and survival didn't depend on being stronger, faster, meaner than anyone else.  I'd hope (possibly unrealistically) that our better natures would take over, at least for the most part. 

 

I have to think that is what Shute was trying to impart....because he did mention some crimes, break-ins and drunkenness and the like.  But only in passing, acknowledged, but not dwelled upon. 

 

When I think of books like The Road by McCarthy............and absolutely shudder.  Who would want to survive into that sort of world!?  But people do, and do whatever it would take to survive.  /shiver/ 

I liked that book very much btw. :)  But still.  Who wants that?

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I have been haunted lately by On The Beach. More specifically by my image of Mary -- self-centered, selfish, unrealistic, living a fantasy, never mentioning the nonesistent future, seemingly in total denial, and impossible to be in the same house with. But most specifically by the garden chair she coaxed and wheedled out of Peter -- the garden chair sitting now so nicely in the corner of the garden as we read of these events long ago. Perhaps one of us could be sitting and reading in that very chair.

 

Mary did not strike me as the noblest of characters in the book on first reading, perhaps even seeming like the least noble of the many stoic people we know around her. But that chair. I can't erase that chair.

 

To me that garden chair is the symbol of Mary's happiness in her last days.

 

Mary found her happiness in imagining and creatingwhat a pretty garden could look like and then in thoughts of how to make it happen. Only that much -- the creative imagining -- was what was allotted to her in the time remaining, but just that much of gardening was sufficient to make her happy. So that is what she devoted her thoughts and imagination to.

 

As much as Peter evaded her presence, he did love her deeply and took seriously her wish for the garden chair to round out her vision of the garden. He knew how much it would mean to her. And when he put the chair in place, she did get to see it before the end and be happy with it. I have the feeling that Peter made her happy in the only way she could find happiness in those days.

 

I think she knew that the fruition of her efforts would be in the coming year. and not be seen by anyone. She did, after all, immediately ask "Is that it?" when the first signs of sickness arrived at her family. So she knew, but devoted herself to happy thoughts in her remaining days, much the same as others occupied themselves with activities that were pleasing to themselves and looked to the coming year.

 

I am writing from recollection of the book finished a while ago, so all that may sound fanciful and sentimental, but that is the new memory of Mary that I am haunted by -- of a woman finding happiness in her passion, with a devoted and loving husband to respect and sustain her. And an enduring garden chair as symbol and monument of their life and love.

 

I love this. :)  It does make me more understanding of Mary.  And, really, her positive thinking is the best way to go.  It's just that all are not capable of managing to do it!  So, kudos to her! 

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When I think of books like The Road by McCarthy............and absolutely shudder.  Who would want to survive into that sort of world!?  But people do, and do whatever it would take to survive.  /shiver/ 

I liked that book very much btw. :)  But still.  Who wants that?

The Road - it's such a powerful book. But the thought of surviving in that sort of world is abhorrent to me. I'd definitely rather kill myself (although I'm not very brave, so...  :wibbly: ).

 

Paul, your post is wonderful.  :)   I didn't find Mary too irritating, she was just different to the other characters.  And I think it was good that Shute included her in his book to show that not everyone is a born survivor.  Peter loved her - it simply boils down to that.  Her notion of building a garden for next year was delusive and unrealistic, but Peter went to trouble to fulfil the fantasy for her. If that's not a sign of true love then I don't know what is.  :)

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Janet, on 29 Apr 2014 - 11:29 AM, said:Janet, on 29 Apr 2014 - 11:29 AM, said:Janet, on 29 Apr 2014 - 11:29 AM, said:

 Her notion of building a garden for next year was delusive and unrealistic, but Peter went to trouble to fulfil the fantasy for her. If that's not a sign of true love then I don't know what is.  :)

Thank you for your kind posts Athena, Janet and Pontalba,  And, yes, Janet, I agree with you completely that "delusive " and "unrealistic" and "fantasy" are the words that we would use to characterize Mary's behavior as strange, when compared to behavior in our own "normal" frame of reference.  But when the world is crazy. what and who then are normal?  That was part of the thought that started me to thinking and feeling more sympathy for Mary, in addition to her not being delusive (our term) about the reality of the impending fatal sickness.

 

For delusive and unrealistic fantasy, I'll offer for consideration the final conversation between Dwight and Moira, when he suggests she bring the pogo stick with her when they meet again at his home in Connecticut.  That was the stuff of fantasy, even though I fully recognize that both parties to the conversation knew the reality, and that they spoke their words with very heavy hearts.  Nevertheless, there were the two main characters engaging in fantasy -- let me call it a "polite fantasy" upon parting -- because it served a purpose of easing the moment.  So, fantasy was the stuff of heartfelt life in those circumstances, and why not allow a full measure for Mary?

 

Not really arguing with your thought, Janet, just offering an alternative emphasis for looking at behavior in a very strangely disturbed world..

Edited by Paul

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Just a quickie post to thank everyone that contributed to the thread, y'all did great!       :thanx:         :cool:

 

I think a collective round of applause for all of the varied and thoughtful, not to mention insightful posts y'all made is in order. :clapping:  :clapping:  :clapping: :clapping:  

 

Also, not to mention that drinks are on the House!  :alc:  

 

It should go without saying (but I'll say it anyhow) :P  that the thread remains open for anyone that didn't get a chance to post, or who might read On the Beach, or see the film at a later time.  You can put your two pound, ten tuppence, ha'penny in anytime! 

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Thank you too Pontalba! I really enjoyed having this discussion, it was one of the better ones I think! :)

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I think this must be the longest RC thread ever! (Although I haven't actually checked).

 

Well done, Kate - you did a great job in leading it.  :)

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thank you too Pontalba, i enjoyed reading the book & joining in the reading circle  :smile:

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Thank you too Pontalba! I really enjoyed having this discussion, it was one of the better ones I think! :)

 

 

I think this must be the longest RC thread ever! (Although I haven't actually checked).

 

Well done, Kate - you did a great job in leading it.  :)

 

 

thank you too Pontalba, i enjoyed reading the book & joining in the reading circle  :smile:

 

 

It really was a great deal of fun.  Thanks for hosting!

 

:blush2:  :blush2:

Thanks to you guys, y'all made it easy!   :flowers2:   I was so worried that no one would post!!  /phew!!/  :lurker:

 

Ah wuz sweatin' bullets, ah can tell ya!  :thankyousigna2:

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Even though I bought this book just before the Reading Circle was due to start, I didn't fancy reading it then. So here I am, a year later....better late than never, aye? :P

 

I haven't read the thread yet, as I want to answer the questions without being too influenced by other answers. :smile:

 

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

 

All the characters were pretty likeable, but I would have to say Moira and Dwight (who I suppose were the main characters). I liked Moira for always trying to do the right thing by Dwight, and I also liked Dwight for the same reasons (for his loyalty to his family, and also the rules around his job).

 

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

 

No one part stands out, as I enjoyed it all. I liked how polite and refined everyone was up to the ending, with constant casual comments about 'next year' even though they knew that they weren't going to be around in the next year.

 

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

 

Loved the writing......it was so calm and matter-of-fact. There was no mass panic and hysteria, which was such a different approach to any other apocalyptic books I have read. I don't know if this is Shute's usual style but it fit very well.

 

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

 

Yes, and I will certainly read more by him.

 

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

 

Not at all; I found it interesting how everyone carried on life as usual (aside from towards the end when they did their Grand Prix racing, and it was almost like suicide missions for most of them), but I didn't struggle with it. It seemed to fit very well.

 

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

 

Definitely. I really enjoyed it....much more than I thought I would.

 

How does Shute's writing style affect the mood of the novel?

 

As mentioned above, I don't know if his writing style of this novel is typical of the style in his other books, but in a way it helped to just absorb the story as it unfolded, without being distracted by hysteria and dramatics.

 

Do you think the events of the novel are believable? Do you think the behavior of the characters in the novel is believable? Why or why not?

 

I think the events are very believable, especially when it was explained how it all unfolded. Not sure about the behaviour of the characters. I think possibly they were in denial, even though they were all closely connected with the research and investigation of the radiations progress, so of all people, they shouldn't have been in denial. I did like how they carried on as normal though, I thought that was an original way of handling it.

 

Why do you think Shute chose the title On the Beach? What is the significance of this phrase?

 

Oooh, I have no idea. It was just back from the beach that Moira took the tablets at the end of the story, so maybe that is significant? I don't recall the phrase 'On the beach' being mentioned in the novel, but I could have missed it.

 

What is the significance of work in the characters' lives?

 

It's their routine, but for Dwight and Peter it is also a way of moving the story forward. Like finding that the signal was just a fluke because of an ill placed window frame, and also showing how the radiation had affected the other regions to the north, and there really was no hope for them.

 

How has the definition of sanity changed in the aftermath of the nuclear war?

I don't actually know. Every one seemed sane in that they were calm and collected, but then considering what was happening, maybe that can be seen as insane behaviour. :blink:

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So if I may add a question, how do you think it would affect you? I find it really scary to think about :hide:.

 
 No idea, but I don't think I would cope very well. :lol: I'm prone to anxiety and worry anyway, and I don't think I would be a survivor, certainly not with the calmness and aplomb of those characters. I think it would also depend on how others were responding. If everyone is civilised, then I would probably be civilised.....but if there were chaos and panic, then it would tip me over the edge. :blink:
 
 

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.
 

 

Jennifer was referred to as 'it' in the middle of the novel as well. I was quite taken aback by it and had to read it again to make sure I was reading it correctly.

 

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.

 
I think if Dwight had done otherwise, it would have gone against his character, as he was very much a 'by the book' person. There are a few instances in the book, where he followed the rules rather than letting his 'personal choice' make the decision for him.

 

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?

 

I assumed it was the way they wanted to die, on the sub that they had dedicated their careers to.....a 'noble' way out in a sense. :dunno:

 

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Even though I bought this book just before the Reading Circle was due to start, I didn't fancy reading it then. So here I am, a year later....better late than never, aye? :P

 

I haven't read the thread yet, as I want to answer the questions without being too influenced by other answers. :smile:

 

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

 

All the characters were pretty likeable, but I would have to say Moira and Dwight (who I suppose were the main characters). I liked Moira for always trying to do the right thing by Dwight, and I also liked Dwight for the same reasons (for his loyalty to his family, and also the rules around his job).

 

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

 

No one part stands out, as I enjoyed it all. I liked how polite and refined everyone was up to the ending, with constant casual comments about 'next year' even though they knew that they weren't going to be around in the next year.

 

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

 

Loved the writing......it was so calm and matter-of-fact. There was no mass panic and hysteria, which was such a different approach to any other apocalyptic books I have read. I don't know if this is Shute's usual style but it fit very well.

 

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

 

Yes, and I will certainly read more by him.

 

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

 

Not at all; I found it interesting how everyone carried on life as usual (aside from towards the end when they did their Grand Prix racing, and it was almost like suicide missions for most of them), but I didn't struggle with it. It seemed to fit very well.

 

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

 

Definitely. I really enjoyed it....much more than I thought I would.

 

How does Shute's writing style affect the mood of the novel?

 

As mentioned above, I don't know if his writing style of this novel is typical of the style in his other books, but in a way it helped to just absorb the story as it unfolded, without being distracted by hysteria and dramatics.

 

Do you think the events of the novel are believable? Do you think the behavior of the characters in the novel is believable? Why or why not?

 

I think the events are very believable, especially when it was explained how it all unfolded. Not sure about the behaviour of the characters. I think possibly they were in denial, even though they were all closely connected with the research and investigation of the radiations progress, so of all people, they shouldn't have been in denial. I did like how they carried on as normal though, I thought that was an original way of handling it.

 

Why do you think Shute chose the title On the Beach? What is the significance of this phrase?

 

Oooh, I have no idea. It was just back from the beach that Moira took the tablets at the end of the story, so maybe that is significant? I don't recall the phrase 'On the beach' being mentioned in the novel, but I could have missed it.

 

What is the significance of work in the characters' lives?

 

It's their routine, but for Dwight and Peter it is also a way of moving the story forward. Like finding that the signal was just a fluke because of an ill placed window frame, and also showing how the radiation had affected the other regions to the north, and there really was no hope for them.

 

How has the definition of sanity changed in the aftermath of the nuclear war?

I don't actually know. Every one seemed sane in that they were calm and collected, but then considering what was happening, maybe that can be seen as insane behaviour. :blink:

 

 

Definitely better! :D  I'm glad you enjoyed it so much!  It is definitely one of my favorites. 

 

Regarding his writing style, yes, I think it's pretty typical of his writing.  He tends to be low key and "stiff upper lip", but there is an underlying emotion that the reader is able to hear in it.  I've only read, I think, two other of his books.  I loved them, although I think I need to reread A Town Like Alice.  I loved it when I was young, but not so much several years ago.  But, now in retrospect, I think I actually did love it.  :doh:   And yes, I know how screwy that sounds....... :blush2:

 

As far as their "sanity", I agree with you.....they did seem quite sane.  But I don't really think that denoted insanity on their part.  It was just a necessary coping system they managed to maintain for the most part.  I really liked the way Shute kept on the positive side of things....in light of the events.  But he did show that not everyone was coping....a couple of times he spoke of the bars being open all the time, and some sorts of criminal behavior by some people. 

 

And yes, I agree the racing towards the end was a form of suicide.  And I don't think anyone could blame them one bit. 

 

I thought the title, was perhaps a take off of the expression 'washed up on the beach'....iow, these people, in the book were  not from Australia, and they sort of washed up on the beach as it was the last place to succumb to the radiation.  The last bits of civilization as we know it. 

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