The Beach, I was promised, is a page-turner. They were right; it is.
It was a thriller from the first page, and was written in such a way that I was whisked into Richard’s fascinating world before long. Honestly, I could almost feel the heat of the Sun rays on my face, and the water lapping around my waist, which can only be a credit to Garland’s incredible writing skills. To add to that, it was easy to digest information because of the short 3-4 page vignettes, which subsequently lured you into the trap of saying, oh just one more! And because of this and more, it is a slick, compulsive, page-turner. I simply loved it.
Then again, maybe not. It is a classic story about paradise lost. In fact, I thought that it would be very similar to Lord of The Flies. Because, you know, they both take place on a beach, and they are both about a paradise worth saving. (I am sure I could write a lengthy essay on their similarities and contrast, so I will keep it brief). But looking back on it now, they are worlds apart. Certainly, the Lord of Flies may be lurking in the novel’s shadow, but the Beach is written with a refreshing sense of the reality that the other novel, perhaps outdated now (it was first published in 1954), lacks. The Beach stands alone.
As for the plot. Fabulous. Richard arrives in Bangkok. Just an ordinary amicable guy who finds a kick in travelling. Except, he has a hunger for more. A hunger to explore more than the beaten path, to go beyond the boundaries. So when he is given a chance to go to a paradise, to start again, live a new life isolated from this busy, noisy world, he takes it. Why wouldn’t he? And it turns out that this thriving utopia is waiting for him. Yet how long can this hidden paradise survive on Earth?
But it was terrifying, dark and sinister too… Although it doesn’t plunge straight into a pit of black at the very beginning; there was always a constant upbeat mood to the novel, despite lots of clearly “interesting” events taking place. For a novel to start off with a man slitting his wrists and to not have a dark cloud looming over all the over pages is miraculous in itself. Indeed, throughout the entire novel there are hints of darkness, yet they always seemed to get lost the beach life.
Richard is a flawed, adventurous traveller and the novel is written from his point of view. I liked him and felt that although some of actions were undeniably questionable, you could see why he did them. Interestingly, Garland doesn’t offer the reader elaborate background story about the characters; who their siblings were and what their Year 3 class thought of their acting at the nativity play. And, truth be told, I never felt an urge to find out more about the characters’ history, not because they were dull, but because everything I needed to know was presented to me. They all felt real enough for me.
I basically devoured this book. It was gripping until the very end, and thankfully, when I reached the end, I was satisfied. So go for it. You might regret it if you don’t.